His name is Flame and he makes even the toughest days better.
The firefighters at Belmont Fire Department in Greenville, South Carolina, never intended to adopt a cat. In fact, most of them didn’t even think of themselves as cat people. But two years ago, everything changed when engineer Jordan Lide noticed a small, scrawny cat in the grass outside of the station.
“We were out in the bays one evening, decompressing after the end of a shift, and when we started to head in, I saw a small cat in the grass,” Lide told The Dodo. “So I started slowly making my way towards him, and he didn’t run. He was extremely malnourished and skinny as can be.”
Lide reached out a hand to pet the cat, and the cat melted. “And as soon as I pet him, it was all over,” Lide said. “He was just climbing all over me.”
Noticing how skinny the cat was, Lide went inside the fire department building, found some leftover chicken and brought it out to the cat.
“He just ate it like it was the best thing ever,” Lide said.
After this, the cat refused to leave. He started hanging around the fire station every day. Lide continued to feed him, and so did some of the other firefighters.
“We started raiding guys’ cabinets, giving him food, and we gained his trust more,” Lide said.
Lide did have one big worry — what would the fire chief say? There was a good chance he wouldn’t like a stray cat hanging out in the station. “We were nervous about telling him at first,” Lide said.
But a few days later, Lide arrived at work to find the chief squatting down and petting Flame.
“We were like, ‘Oh, this is a good sign,’” Lide said. “And [the chief] was like, ‘Where did this cat come from?’ And we said, ‘Uh, he kind of lives here now.’”
Luckily, the fire chief fell in love with Flame as quickly as Lide and the others did — and he’s now a permanent fixture in the department.
“He lives in the bays where all the trucks are,” Lide said. “We’ve tried to bring him in before, but he prefers to be out in the bays. We close and lock up the bays at night, and in the morning when we come in, he’ll meet us right by the door.”
“He is unanimously loved at this place,” Lide added. “A lot of the guys will even tell you, ‘I’m not a cat guy, but Flame — he’s just different.’”
At first, the firefighters took turns buying food for Flame, but then the fire chief found a way to work Flame’s costs into their department. The team also gave Flame an official title.
“We have a bunch of kids who come in and do tours, and one of the kids asked if he was a service cat, like a police dog,” Lide said. “So we said, ‘Yeah, he’s an arson investigator.’ So we called him ‘Flame the arson cat,’ and it stuck.”
And like a true firefighter, Flame seems to understand the importance of water.
“We had firefighting gloves on the first time we were going to give him a bath,” Lide said. “But then we quickly realized that he really didn’t mind it. He’ll literally sit in the water, and we’ll pour cups of water over him and wash him. If we don’t pick him up, he just kind of wades in the tub, like ‘I don’t want to get out.’”
The firefighters may have given Flame a home, but in Lide’s opinion, Flame has given them so much more.
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