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PEACH OF A CAT ALERTS COUPLE TO BLAZE

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Mark Conklin and her husband, James, owe their lives to the persistence of a cat named Peaches.

The Conklins' home, 1322 E. Chandler Drive (470 North), was struck by lightning Monday morning, and a fire started almost immediately. The Conklins slept through the blast, although it woke the neighbors on both sides of their Salt Lake home.As smoke filled the house, Peaches tried to wake the couple.

"He was howling and howling," Mark Conklin said. "I could hear him in the back of my mind, but we were too much under the smoke."

But Peaches, a friendly and gentle cat, wouldn't give up. "He clawed my arm," she said.

She woke up to a room full of smoke. "We were completely engulfed in smoke. We couldn't even see across the room."

The Conklins called the Fire Department and then carried Peaches out of the house, gathering two other pets on the way.

"He was really a hero," she said. The couple stayed in their home Monday night, but Mark Conklin said they weren't feeling well Tuesday morning.

The fire did in excess of $50,000 damage, she said. "Our house is a disaster, but we're alive."

A few miles away and about 20 minutes later, lightning struck the home of Steve and Lorna Matheson, 2270 E. Hubbard Ave. (935 South).

Lorna Matheson was walking from the bathroom to her bedroom when the blast nearly knocked her to the floor. The lightning hit a

pipe in the attic above the bathroom.

"I felt like I'd been knocked down," she said. Her husband, Steve, was directly below her in the kitchen.

"I was putting some bread in the toaster," he said. "It was very, very scary when the lightening hit. It just thundered into the house and shook the whole thing."

Steve Matheson said he knew right away they'd been hit by lightening, and his concern turned to his wife.

"She's very, very inordinately afraid of lightning," he said. He ran upstairs to his wife, who said she was going to the basement. The couple had house guests who were sleeping.

Almost immediately after the blast, smoke started to pour from the attic window, Steve Matheson said.

"It was like someone threw a Molotov cocktail up there," he said. "I thought it (the fire) had such a start that they wouldn't be able to save (the house."

With a fire station only two blocks away, he said, he felt safe. But Fire Station 10 was out on another emergency, so the family had to wait for the next closest fire crew to arrive.

"The Fire Department was great," Steve Matheson said. As firefighters scaled the house to fight the fire, smoke poured out from underneath every shingle, he said. The roof and attic were destroyed, but no one was injured.

The Mathesons' front lawn was covered with their belongings Monday afternoon as friends and relatives scurried to box them up and move them to nearby garages.

"Our neighbors and friends have just been marvelous," he said. "There are a lot of great people in the world. We're just fortunate to live by them."

Steve Matheson said it was disturbing to watch his home of 25 years going up in smoke. They had just remodeled the main floor of their home.

"I feel better this afternoon than I did this morning. We will rebuild. We're going to whip this thing," he said and turned to help his sons carry boxes to the garage.