A family escaped tragedy after a fire ripped through their home in Sackville, N.B. Monday night, but one resident needed the help of a firefighter to escape the blaze.

“I couldn’t see anything because of the smoke and I had a thermal imaging camera with me,” says firefighter Tim Upham. “I thought I heard it and as I bent down, I could see the little paws sticking out of the dresser.”

What Upham heard was Grey, the family cat, meowing.

Upham says he was cautious as he approached the cat, as animals can react dangerously when caught in fires, but Grey wasn’t moving.

Upham grabbed the cat, brought her outside and handed her over to paramedic and volunteer firefighter Eddie Cole.

“I just tried to do what I think I should do to help this little cat live,” says Cole.

First, Cole gave Grey oxygen with an oxygen mask built for humans, but she didn’t respond. Then, firefighters handed over their special oxygen mask for pets and Grey was resuscitated.

Cole says in the four years since Sackville’s fire department got the pet oxygen masks they have only had to use it once before. 

The masks come in different sizes for animals big and small.

“The oxygen mask for a human being pretty much has the same anatomy, but for an animal, their nose and mouth is shaped differently, so their nose and mouth would fit into this sort of cone-shaped mask,” says Cole.

Upham says the fire caused extensive water and smoke damage to the home but he is happy he could help save the life of Grey the cat, who would have perished if he had not heard her meow.

“Feels great,” says Upham. “I’m just one of 45 other members of Sackville Fire that would have done the same thing. I was just in the right place at the right time.”

Grey’s owner says she is in good hands and is expected to make a full recovery. The cat was taken to a veterinarian where she was given some antibiotics to treat soot in her lungs.

With files from CTV Atlantic's Sarah Plowman