A woman who dedicated her life to the care of homeless cats suffered a terrible blow Tuesday morning when a fire tore through her San Jose, Ca. home and killed about 100 cats in her care.
Carole Miller, who founded the Stanford Cat Network and housed many of the cats in her home, survived the blaze by curling into the fetal position in a backyard enclosure on Polvadero Drive. Her rescue dog, Bunny, also survived, along with seven cats.
But Fire Capt. Chief Reggie Williams said the majority of the remaining cats -- numbering nearly 100 -- died in the fire.
The fire was reported at about 1:45 a.m. and extinguished by 2:15 a.m. The cats were sleeping in crates, Miller said, which is why they couldn't immediately get out.
Miller, a former research administrator at Stanford University, was sleeping on the couch when the fire broke out. The fire started in the bedroom. Investigators are still trying to figure out what caused it.
"They were like my children. I devoted my whole life to them," Miller said. "I always worried that I couldn't get back to them. I always made sure they had plenty of food and fresh water. They were well cared for and terribly loved."
The cat network was founded on the belief that "all life should be valued and treated with dignity and respect," according to its website.
Miller said that her home was inspected by the proper animal care authorities who ensured that she could house so many animals at her residence.
However, San Jose's Animal Care and Services Director Jon Cicirelli, said that she had been turned down for a permit to house that many cats. San Jose has a five-cat rule. He did, however, say that it was obvious Miller had cared for her cats, and that there is no evidence of criminal wrongdoing or negligence.
"She was clearly caring for the cats," he said.
In this case, despite all of Miller's efforts, she couldn't save the lives of her beloved cats, but she's not sure she's going to end up adding dozens more cats to her home again. Choking up, Miller told NBC Bay Area that she will soon "take all their little bodies" up to Napa, where she has "many animals buried," and cremate them.
"I"m going to regroup," she said. "And love the ones who survived."
NBC Bay Area's Alan Waples and Shawn Murphy contributed to this report.