Sweet Mia was lucky to survive the fire, and she was even luckier to be welcomed into a loving home.

When the Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando caught fire Sept. 15, all hope seemed lost for the animals trapped inside, especially the cats who were housed in the wing where the fire blazed hardest. But one cat in particular was luckily barely injured—and was even luckier to be adopted by a firefighter who helped save her.

Brett Maneri, one of the Orange County firefighters on the scene, arrived to detect and put out potential hotspots inside the shelter once the fire was mostly extinguished. But his work soon became a rescue mission when firefighters realized there were still animals alive inside. 

"All the cats were petrified; it was like they saw a ghost," Maneri tells Daily Paws. "When something like this happens to a place where you would rescue an animal, you know, it was heartbreaking." 

Maneri and the rest of the crew found three cats during that shift, including a pregnant cat who was caged in the room where the roof collapsed. Two of the cats were in critical condition, but one 5-year-old green-eyed tabby was remarkably in great health given the trauma she just experienced.

"Surprisingly, she was in the worst place possible and she came out with a couple of bruises on her butt," Maneri says. "So it was a miracle that she was even in that condition."

In all, shelter officials say 17 cats sadly died in the fire, but thankfully 24 were recovered and all 26 dogs survived the fire, according to WFTV.

Seeing all the defenseless, scared cats, Maneri knew right away he wanted to adopt one of the survivors. His mother had helped run the Florida Boxer Rescue, so he grew up surrounded by rescue animals. He already had two cats and a boxer at home, the latter of whom had actually been adopted from the Pet Alliance.

firefighter with the cat he adopted after saving them from a fire
Credit: Courtesy of Brett Maneri

He ended up rescuing Mia, the little kitty who'd survived almost completely unscathed. 

"[Mia] was just so scared and timid in the back of the cage … I wanted to take her home and give her a home," Maneri tells Daily Paws. "And I'm not going to lie, she was adorable."

After his firefighting shift ended, he went straight to signing Mia's adoption papers before taking her home with him. He says she was understandably agitated that day after all she endured, but after a good night's rest, the kitty was good as new. She's a huge sweetheart and loves to cuddle, whether it's with Maneri and his girlfriend, his mother, or his lovable boxer. 

Maneri has received a fair bit of media attention for taking Mia home, but he tells Daily Paws it's important to recognize the efforts of his whole crew at Orange Country Fire Rescue.

"Without the crew and everyone else who responded to that effort, I don't think any of this could have been possible," Maneri says. "The outcome could have been totally different."

He also encourages people to support the Pet Alliance after the tragic fire, as it needs help now more than ever. You can help support the surviving animals and the shelter by donating here.