FDNY hero rescues kitten stuck in car engine: ‘Every life is important’

By Alex Mitchell

Sometimes being NYC’s bravest isn’t about putting out big, bad, fires — it’s about rescuing cute little kitties.

FDNY firefighter Anthony Caliendo is being lauded as a local hero after rescuing a kitten stuck inside a Toyota in Queens on Monday.

It was during a 9/11 commemoration ceremony that a driver flagged down members of Ladder 158 in Springfield Gardens, over fears that there was an animal stuck in their vehicle, Lt. Robert Schlaffer told The Post.

“He said, ‘I think I have an animal in my engine,’” Schlaffer recalled. “It’s not the weirdest thing we’ve ever heard.”

The muscle-bound Caliendo, 27, of Lindenhurst, was seen on camera along with a team of fellow firefighters, rescuing the little critter out of a space between a pan holding up its fuel tank and wheel well. However, they had to improvise as the poor creature, no larger than a pair of hands, struggled to escape the confined space.

“I was trying to push the cat out, but the hole was too tiny, so we got a gigantic bottle of dish soap,” Caliendo told The Post, calling the rescue “a complete team effort” to slip the kitten through.

“When we finally got it out it was swaddled like a baby, the poor thing was looking at me soaking wet.”

FDNY members moved swiftly to rescue a cat stuck inside a car engine.
FDNY members moved swiftly to rescue a cat stuck inside a car engine.

Firefighters Chris Lyons, Dwayne Campbell, John Moravek and Claudius Caines were also credited for the impromptu operation, which had several complications.

Luckily, Caliendo, plus former mechanic Campbell, and the crew knew a thing or two about cars, a skill that helped during the rescue.

“We had to take off the tire with a jack and then started taking [more pieces] apart. We were lucky enough to have a couple of guys that were mechanically inclined,” Lt. Schlaffer explained, saying the whole procedure took about 20 minutes.

“I’m not saying it was NASCAR pit crew, but everything we do is with a sense of urgency…if he kept driving that cat wouldn’t have made it, there’s no way,” he said.

Fortunately, the very clean furball is now under the permanent care of Christopher Yasparro, 38, a firefighter with Engine 311, a company that shares its house with Ladder 158. After all, his fiancee Karisa Moore is a cat lover who already has two of her own. They named the new kitty Felix because it translates to “lucky” in Latin.

“After everything the cat went through and all of the trouble, we felt it was the right thing to do,” Yasparro, a Howard Beach resident, told The Post. “We got it checked out. It was happy and healthy so we decided to give the kitten a home.”

The FDNY rescued cat (far right) now resides in the home of firefighter Christopher Yasparro.
The FDNY-rescued cat (far right) now resides in the home of firefighter Christopher Yasparro.

Originally, the firehouse was planning to take in the kitty, however they felt such a pet would not bode well with Jake, the house’s dog, Caliendo explained.

And, at the end of the day, their lieutenant couldn’t be more pleased with the end results, too.

“Being a firefighter is a three-step process: find the problem, identify the problem, solve the problem. I think Anthony and the guys executed that very well,” Schlaffer said. “Every life is important. So we take the time to do it as best we can.”

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