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.