A San Jose, California woman narrowly escaped a fire inside her home, but almost 100 cats she had rescued and cared for died in the blaze early Tuesday morning.
"I don't allow, candles, matches, no Christmas trees, anything," Carol Miller told KGO-TV after fire officials arrived to extinguish the fire. "I am so careful. And this is my worst nightmare. I just don't know where to go from here."
Miller told the station she is part of an animal rescue group contracted to rescue, spay and neuter stray cats found on the campus of Stanford University in nearby Palo Alto; her vehicle license plate read "cat net."
The San Jose Mercury News reported that Miller called for help around 1:43 a.m. Tuesday morning, saying her dog woke her up, enabling her to see smoke coming out of a bedroom.
"She had a smoke detector but for some reason it didn't work," Fire Capt. Reggie Williams told the News. "The dog alerted her."
Miller made it out of the house through a back door, but was trapped in a patio laced with metal netting keeping the cats from escaping the house. Following emergency dispatchers' orders, she laid on the ground in a fetal position until firefighters cut through the netting to reach her, before pulling her to safety.
Williams told the News the cats died as a result of smoke inhalation. About seven other cats survived, along with Miller's dog, Bunny.
The cause of the fire is under investigation as of Tuesday afternoon.
Watch KGO's report on the fire at Miller's home, aired Tuesday, below.