WINCHESTER — Upon his arrival at a fire scene recently, a Winchester police officer answered a call beyond his normal duties to help save a cat still inside the burning home.
Patrolman Bryan Jalava rescued the feline on Aug. 20, and video from his body camera made the rounds on social media late last week and through the holiday weekend.
The shaky footage shows Jalava climbing a ladder toward the smoke, then with one arm holding the rungs, grabbing the tuxedo cat, Nightmare, by the scruff of the neck and pulling it from the window. Aside from a few meows and a short-lived effort to cling to the torn window screen, Nightmare appeared calm through the ordeal and was handed off to another first responder beneath the ladder to get oxygen treatment.
Jalava, 31, said he’s been at the department for about a year, and has usually assisted fire crews only in diverting traffic and keeping the scene clear for firefighters to do their work.
However, for the recent mid-day fire on High Street, he said he was the first on scene.
While the fire crew focused on the inside of the home, Jalava and Winchester Police Chief Mike Tollett noticed the cat meowing from a smoking window on the second floor.
“I think a lot of it was the training kicking in — and not even specific training, because we don’t really cross-train with the fire [department] all that much,” Jalava, of Swanzey, said Tuesday, explaining that general police training to get those in danger to safety overtook any conscious thoughts he could remember.
As shown in the video, Jalava and Tollett figured out how to get a ladder off of a fire truck’s latches before the patrolman scampered up to entice Nightmare to come within reach.
“Pets are part of your family,” Jalava said.
Unfortunately, a dog and some kittens in a litter perished in the fire, according to Tollett, while other pets were rescued and received oxygen treatment.
The fire was stopped at a first alarm, but the family was displaced due to water damage, Tollett said.
Although the experience has brought Jalava more attention than usual and fits a time-trodden, feel-good narrative, the patrolman said he feels honored to have been able to get the cat out alive.
“It’s that quintessential, you know, generic, the-firefighter-saved-the-cat-from-a-tree type of thing,” he said, “but I was just blessed to have the opportunity to actually save a creature, save a life.”