Rescued cats back at the Evanston Animal Shelter, 2310 Oakton St. Shelter officials were trying to arrange medical care for 34 cats rescued from the Dewey building. (Photo courtesy of Evanston Animal Shelter)

Evanston Fire Department officials initially reported that as many as 15 cats were rescued in a structure fire in the 1300 block of Dewey Avenue on Aug. 16, but the number has climbed since then.

As of Aug. 18, the number stands at 34, reported Vicky Pasenko, executive director of the Evanston Animal Shelter, located at 2310 Oakton St.

Shelter volunteers, meanwhile, have been in full response mode, seeing to the cats’ aftermath medical care and finding them homes.

“A couple of people from my team were there until 10:30 last night, rescuing cats from that place,” Pasenko said the day after the fire. The volunteers went back the next today and found more, pulling animals from the rubble, she said.

Fire Department personnel have been especially helpful, working with shelter volunteers in the rescue, Pasenko said.

Leading the Animal Shelter effort are Nancy Maize, the shelter’s Feline Director; Kristi Bachmann, TNR (Trap, Neuter, Return) Director; and  Natan Lipton-Lubet, the Shelter’s Operations Director.

“Nancy and Kristi are the ones who were working in the house to extract cats and Natan transported cats to the shelter and handled other logistics,” Pasenko reported.

Shelter operators work out of a cramped facility on Oakton Street with limited space to accommodate the animals the not-for-profit group takes in.

Pasenko was on the phone with local veterinarians the day after the fire, trying to arrange medical exams for the rescued cats.

She said the shelter is also working with other area shelters to see if they can take some of the cats in. So far, five cats being have been transferred to The Anti-Cruelty Society and three to the Hinsdale Humane Society, Pasenko said.

“Tree House Humane Society is analyzing their capacity,” she added. “We’re reaching out to vets in the area, because veterinarians are already overloaded with patients and we’re hoping to be able to send two or three cats to each of the practices we contact.”

Kristi Bachmann (to left), the TNR (Trap, Neuter, Return) Director at the Evanston Animal Shelter and Nancy Maize, the Shelter’s Feline Director, work to rescue cats from a fire that broke out at a residence in the 1300 block of Dewey Avenue on Aug. 16. (Photo courtesy of Evanston Animal Shelter)

She said the cats may have to settle in a bit before she will know their condition, because “regardless of how tame they might have been before, going through the fire and Fire Department, that’s a frightening experience that would freak us out as humans, let alone as a cat.”

On Facebook, the organization – which depends on private donations for funding – listed some its needs in the aftermath of the rescue.

These included foster homes for the shelter’s current residents so space can be cleared for the new cats and money for medical care.

“The cats have a variety of health issues that will require medical treatment beyond just the standard vaccination and spay/neuter surgery,” Pasenko said.

Fire Department officials reported responding at approximately 8:45 a.m. on Aug. 16 to a call of a structure fire at a residential home in the 1300 block of Dewey Avenue.

Officials reported that the first responding companies encountered restricted access to the home with heavy smoke and fire on the first floor.

The fire was quickly upgraded to a box alarm, officials said, bringing in neighboring fire departments to assist with the response and to provide coverage for Evanston.

No cause of the fire or damage figure was reported.

Fire Chief Paul Polep and Deputy Chief Kimberly Kull did not respond Aug. 17 to emails and a call Aug. 17, seeking additional information.

Those wishing additional information about the Evanston Animal Shelter, including ways to help can visit the group’s Facebook page or website at

Bob Seidenberg is an award-winning reporter covering issues in Evanston for more than 30 years. He is a graduate of the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism.

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