Norman Mills' cat is one of the most important things in his life.
Sunday morning he held her especially close, realizing he nearly lost her just a few hours prior.
"[She's] scared really bad because of the fire," Mills said of Rudolph. "She doesn't have anything to go back to now."
Just before 7 a.m. smoke and flames forced Mills the apartment he's called home more than a decade. The fire and its aftermath ruined what little possessions the 63-year-old disabled veteran had.
"By the time I opened the door it looked like a darn fire place in the window," Mills explained.
Investigators say the blaze broke out in unit 10, home of 47-year-old Paula Ayers. According to a Pinellas County Sheriff's Office report she started the fire and is now facing arson charges. The complex is located at 2018 North Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St.
The unfortunate incident has left nearly a dozen people without a place to live. Most suffer from one or more disability.
"I don't know what I'm going to do," said Sharon Eneim also echoing the concerns of her fellow residents. "I haven't thought it out it; it all happened so fast."
After gathering up what belongings they could salvage the tenants spent the morning with officials from the local chapter of the American Red Cross. The charity organization will set up the residents with temporary housing and other necessities.
Despite the loss of material items Mills is just thankful he was able to rescue his cat. The feline will stay with a neighbor until Mills can get back on his feet.
"It's just a real bad deal for me because I'm a victim," he said. "Someone else is doing something wrong and it affects the rest of us."
Fortunately saving Rudloph means the world to Mills.
"She's scared, scared to death," he said of his companion.
Fortunately nobody was injured in the fire.
Ayers, who is no stranger to law enforcement, was booked into the Pinellas County Jail where she is being held without bond pending her first appearance before a judge.
In 2009 she was arrested by St. Petersburg Police on disorderly conduct and resisting arrest charges. In 2001 St. Pete Police charged her with filing a false police report.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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