The harrowing tale of 'Bridgette' the kitten -- Burton firefighter rappels off bridge to save feline

Special to the Gazette

A really tired, stressed-out kitten is recovering at the Beaufort County Animal Shelter after its dramatic rescue from beneath the Broad River bridge this week.

Named "Bridge-it" by shelter staff, the American short-haired calico is estimated to be about 6 weeks old, said Suzanne Larson, shelter spokeswoman.

Starting Wednesday, visitors to the Broad River fishing pier heard her meowing under the deck of the bridge. Someone called the shelter, which went to investigate.

Capt. David Grabenbauer of the Burton Fire District said the department got a call about the kitten early Thursday and began practicing the rescue via rappel.

"Our biggest fear was that civilians would try to go out there on their own," Grabenbauer said. "To the water, that's probably a 30- to 40-foot drop. So we got out there, closed down one southbound lane and set up a high anchor point."

Thursday night, Burton firefighter Jon Mosher rappelled down to the kitten, but it shied away from him. He set up a cage with food in it, but the cat didn't venture toward it.

"We were hoping we could get him to come to Jon," Grabenbauer said. "He was practicing his kitty calls all day."

With a storm rolling in, the firefighters left. Overnight, the cat went into the cage. The cage was retrieved about 9 a.m. Friday.

Grabenbauer said the fire department was glad to hear the cat was recovering.

"It's just kind of a running joke, you know, the thing about firefighters going up and getting cats stuck in trees, so that doesn't do much to help our image," he joked. "It ended well though. We've never been asked to do anything remotely close to that. You see lots of high-angle rescues during floods and kids stuck in wells and stuff, but cats on bridges? No, we've never been asked to do that before."

Firefighters are still unsure of how the cat got onto the bridge's supports, he said.

A shelter employee plans to adopt Bridge-it as soon as she is strong enough, Larson said.