Like other Napa, California, residents in 2017, Laura Ringenberger found that her home had been devastated by wildfire. And the tragedy was compounded, it seemed, by the loss of her cat, who may have perished in the flames. That fear didn’t stop the pet owner from looking for her missing kitty, though. And when she returned to the scene of the fire, a familiar shape would emerge from the debris…
Before the blaze took hold of Laura’s home, however, she, husband P.J. and their two children were coming to the end of an already eventful period in their lives. In particular, PJ.’s job had engaged him heavily in the preparations for golf’s Safeway Open at the nearby Silverado Resort and Spa, and he had naturally been very busy with the work that that had entailed. The tournament was winding down, however, and so a calmer period for the family seemed to be on the horizon.
But unfortunately for the Ringenbergers, there was no time to relax. Instead, at around 10:30 p.m. on October 8, 2017, they found themselves forced to flee their home on Soda Canyon Road. A wildfire was heading their way, meaning that the family had to scramble to safety as quickly as possible; as a result, they left without most of their possessions.
Thankfully, though, Laura, P.J. and the kids got away from the encroaching flames unscathed. Subsequently, they sought temporary shelter in a Home Depot car park, where they would camp overnight. And the couple assumed that, with any luck, they would soon be able to return to Soda Canyon Road.
Indeed, as PJ’s sister Corey Gines would later explain to FOX31 Denver, “They literally thought the fire would be put out. [They thought they’d] be back in the morning.” Sadly, though, this assumption was wrong: the Ringenbergers’ house had in fact been destroyed.
And that suggested yet more awful news: as the family hadn’t been able to find their cat, Kitty Kitty Star, before running from their home, she may very well have perished in the blaze. Furthermore, it was only on October 11 – three days after the Ringenbergers had evacuated – that Laura could return to the area to search for her missing pet.
It wouldn’t be a police officer who would take Laura back to her home to hunt for the kitty, however; instead, ABC10 journalist John Bartell escorted her. Bartell himself had originally traveled on assignment to the wine producing area of Napa Valley; he would subsequently report about the fires and the devastation they had caused in the region.
And Laura was aware that Bartell had special access to roads in her neighborhood that had otherwise been closed off. Therefore, she flagged him down and asked if he could take her to her home. Laura also explained to him that someone had already told her that her house had been destroyed. Nevertheless, she wanted to see the proof for herself – and see if she could locate her cat in the process.
Bartell’s report, then, sees Laura climbing into the journalist’s car and guiding him to where her house had once stood. “Right there,” she tearfully instructs, before getting out of the vehicle and beginning her search for her pet.
And as the camera pans around the area, you can see the devastation left in the fire’s wake. All that can be seen on this part of Soda Canyon Road is mere ash, rubble and the remnants of the few household items that have managed to survive the searing heat. Laura explains to the reporter, however, that the only item that her son really wants back is his “gold St. Christopher chain.”
There’s something – or, rather, someone – to search for in the meantime, though. “Here kitty, kitty, kitty, treat, treat, treat,” Laura shouts, her efforts seemingly in vain. She also explains, “I didn’t know where the fire went.” Perhaps, then, she is looking in the wrong place.
Yet, before Laura can start her next sentence, a familiar sound a little way off grabs her attention. She pauses to listen to the noise before then calling out again, “Kitty!” And, this time, the source of the mewing materializes, as Kitty Kitty Star walks gingerly into view.
“Come on, it’s okay, come on,” Laura then says reassuringly to her pet. Then, at the end of the report, both owner and cat are seen reunited, Kitty Kitty Star being petted by Laura as she tells the animal, “Hey, kitty – yes, it’s okay.”
And Laura would later tell ABC10, “We found her. I don’t know what we are going to do about the house – it’s a loss – [but] we got the kitty!” Perhaps, then, the heartwarming reunion was some consolation for the trauma that the family had already been through.
But even though Kitty Kitty Star had been retrieved safely, the Ringenbergers still had to deal with their wrecked home. And, unfortunately, the insurance that they had had didn’t cover the entirety of their loss. For this reason, P.J.’s sister Corey set up a GoFundMe page to help get the family back on their feet.
And on the page Corey, who lives in Denver, Colorado, revealed that she felt “helpless” due to the distance between herself and the Ringenbergers. The GoFundMe initiative was, then, she hoped, “a small gesture in what I can do to help my family in time of need.”
Corey went on to state, “I’m hoping they can use this money to help them [with] food, clothes, housing, etc. I know we all love and adore the Ringenberger family and we will be so grateful for any help you can give.” Fortunately, though, the Ringenbergers did however have a temporary place of residence. “They have a friend that has been so generous as to let them stay at their guest studio for the time being,” Corey added.
And in an update on the GoFundMe page, Laura herself would recount what had happened to her family. She wrote, “Every time I have tried to get the words out vocally or by text, only tears fall. We had just been talking about how bad the wind was going to be on Sunday when we went to look at the pink moon but ended up staring at a raging fire just across the way. Maybe that is why there was a sense of urgency to go. I thought we would need a place to stay for the night, grabbed some blankets, [got] the kids out of their beds and [took a] few other little things as the power went out.”
But, as it happened, of course, the family needed more than just overnight shelter. And the majority of their belongings were destroyed in the fire, too, as Laura would further explain. She wrote, “I am grieving the loss of so many sentimental items. Tangible things that kept me connected to my parents, P.J. to his dad; furniture that was passed down to us that traveled across the ocean and back again; all the kids’ baby things that we were holding on to to give [to] them one day.”
But despite being “devastated by the tremendous amount of loss all over the area,” Laura also wanted to thank everyone who had assisted her family and others like hers during this difficult time. She wrote, “So many good people, people helping. People that are working around the clock to help… so many doors opening and welcoming people into their homes.” And, naturally, the Ringenbergers had something else to celebrate, too: the return of their beloved Kitty Kitty Star.