An amazing story of survival has emerged from the rubble of a condominium fire in Winnipeg.

A cat was recovered on Thursday morning, more than 24 hours after the blaze ripped through the three-storey building and demolition crews tore down the weakened remains.

As a firefighter climbed out from the basement of 817 St. Paul Avenue with the wet and bedraggled orange tabby, CBC photojournalist Andrew Lee was there.


An orange tabby is wrapped in a blanket after being rescued from the condo rubble on Thursday. (Andrew Lee/CBC)

Out of the blue, emerged this cat; this firefighter had this cat nestled in his arms," Lee said.

"He was slowly picking his way across the rubble and then as you get close, you could tell the cat was alive, you could see the cat blink, stare right into the camera.

"The cat looked straggly, it looked wet, but it looked very much alive."

The cat was sheltered in a fire paramedic truck and then taken by animal services agents.

Wyatt the cat

The cat was later identified as Wyatt.

Chris Neufeld was looking after the cat for friends who were out of the city on vacation.

'It was kind of a miracle that this cat just came out of the rubble like that.'—Chris Neufeld 

"It was an amazing moment because it was kind of a miracle that this cat just came out of the rubble like that," he said.

The Winnipeg Humane Society checked Wyatt over and determined that he suffered minor smoke inhalation from the fire. The cat was later released from the society's care and reunited with his owners.

And there could be more to look after. Neufeld was actually looking after two cats for his friends and believes the other feline, Fraidy, will still appear from the debris of the building.

Crews at the site did notice what they believed to be another cat in the rubble but couldn't get to it.

"I've got a feeling that as the rubble is being pulled off, she's going to choose her moment to come back out. So we are going to have a team of people waiting for that," he said.

Some people banded together on Thursday afternoon to search for Fraidy, but they have yet to find her.

Roaring flames

Firefighters started battling the blaze in the city's West End just after 4 a.m. on Wednesday.


Demolition crews worked through the night on Wednesday to raze the condo complex on St. Paul Avenue in Winnipeg. (Justin Fraser/CBC)

No one was hurt but about two dozen residents from the condo complex lost everything they couldn't carry.

Damage is estimated at $3 million and the cause of the fire is still under investigation.

The flames roared for hours as firefighters on the ground shot water through windows and those in aerial ladders directed it onto the roof, which fell in at about 8 a.m., sending out a rush of flames.

Once the flames were doused, firefighters spent the afternoon and part of the evening soaking hot spots, as more of the building continued to crumble and collapse.

Demolition crews then moved in and carved away at what was left.

Power cut

In order to protect the crews, power was cut in the area at about 8:30 p.m. leaving some 50 hydro customers to spend a cold night.

The power was restored for some residents in the area by late Thursday morning.

A spokesperson for Manitoba Hydro said crews are still working to restore electricity to the two condominium buildings next to the destroyed complex.