s
s
Sections
We don't just cover the North Bay. We live here.
Did You Know? In the first 10 days of the North Bay fire, nearly 1.5 million people used their mobile devices to visit our sites.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Wow! You read a lot!
Reading enhances confidence, empathy, decision-making, and overall life satisfaction. Keep it up! Subscribe.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Oops, you're out of free articles.
Until next month, you can always look over someone's shoulder at the coffee shop.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
We don't just cover the North Bay. We live here.
Did You Know? In the first 10 days of the North Bay fire, we posted 390 stories about the fire. And they were shared nearly 137,000 times.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Supporting the community that supports us.
Obviously you value quality local journalism. Thank you.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Oops, you're out of free articles.
We miss you already! (Subscriptions start at just 99 cents.)
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
X

The "Follow This Story" feature will notify you when any articles related to this story are posted.

When you follow a story, the next time a related article is published — it could be days, weeks or months — you'll receive an email informing you of the update.

If you no longer want to follow a story, click the "Unfollow" link on that story. There's also an "Unfollow" link in every email notification we send you.

This tool is available only to subscribers; please make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.

X

Please note: This feature is available only to subscribers; make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.

Susan and Jim Decker’s house up between Fountaingrove Parkway and Mark West Springs Road didn’t burn. Not at first.

Call it luck when the Tubbs firestorm of the night of Oct. 8 missed the Deckers’ place. The flames were so far away when the couple evacuated, leaving their two cats inside, they really didn’t think their neighborhood on Skyfarm Drive was in peril.

But the destruction inflicted all around their place was ghastly. The Deckers hadn’t yet returned home when, about mid-afternoon on Oct. 9, they were lucky again. To a point.

_____

A PATROLLING police officer noticed amid the devastation along Skyfarm Drive that smoke was rising from their garage. That officer notified a company of firefighters.

As the fire crew pulled up to the Deckers’ house, a neighbor happened to drive by. She phoned Susan, told her what was happening and then passed her cellphone to a firefighter.

Susan gave the firefighter permission to break into the house, and told him where to find the car keys and the important papers and keepsake jewelry she’d most like to save.

As firefighters forced open the garage door, one of the Deckers’ two cats, Tiger, ran out. The firefighters quickly drove to safety Jim Decker’s two Chevrolet Corvettes, a ’58 and a new one, and also Susan’s sedan, and they gathered up what valuables they could.

They doused the flames, but not before the Deckers’ house was damaged beyond repair.

_____

LATER THAT MONDAY, the Deckers, proprietors of Double Decker bowling lanes in Rohnert Park, returned to what remained of their home. When they opened a door, there was Gregory, their No. 2 cat.

Aware that Tiger had run off, they called for and looked for him. Though they didn’t find him, Susan felt in her heart that Tiger would be OK.

“He’s a tough guy,” she said. “He’s always been a hunter.”

At what still stood of her house, Susan left food and water, and blankets and towels as bedding for Tiger.

_____

THREE MONTHS PASSED. Just after Christmas, Dave Yarger Jr. applied himself to trapping a white-snouted tabby that had been spotted on Skyfarm Drive by cat rescuer Julie Girolo-Blankenship.

Yarger is an aerospace machinist and one of the post-fire heroes who works all day and then late at night searches for fire-scattered pet cats. He put out a camera and immediately captured a photo of the cat he believed was the Deckers’ Tiger.

For two weeks, “Trapper Dave” Yarger set out food for Tiger, moving the bowl closer and closer to the Deckers’ burned home. He contacted Susan and Jim, told them he thought he was getting close to catching Tiger and asked permission to set a cage trap in their garage.

The night of Jan. 12, he found Tiger in the cage. Yarger said Tiger had for weeks seemed terrified of him, but when he opened the cage door “he climbed out and he started licking my face.”

The rest of that night, Tiger slept on his rescuer’s chest.

The next day, Yarger handed Tiger to the couple who’d lost him 95 days earlier. Susan and Jim heaped lovin’ on Tiger and showered Yarger with thanks and pleaded that he let them give or do something for him as a token of their gratitude.

Well, Trapper Dave said at last, it would be nice to take his wife bowling.

Chris Smith is at 707-521-5211 and chris.smith@pressdemocrat.com.

Editor’s note: This version of the story corrects information about how the Deckers expressed their gratitude to Yarger.

Show Comment