The Fire Cats

Santa Rosa, California | Film Feature


Katharine Parsons

1 Campaigns | Ontario, Canada

Green Light

This campaign raised $14,228 for post-production. Follow the filmmaker to receive future updates on this project.

92 supporters | followers

Enter the amount you would like to pledge


In 2017 hundreds of cats survived a firestorm in Santa Rosa. Rescuers devoted themselves to returning those cats to their families who had lost everything. But a year later, when the monstrous Camp Fire wiped out Paradise, an antagonist appeared in the aftermath that the rescuers had not planned on.

About The Project

  • The Story
  • Wishlist
  • Updates
  • The Team
  • Community

Mission Statement

Fire Cats is primarily female-based. Katharine is a screenwriter filmmaker on the thither side of forty. One cinematographer is a female Chinese/Canadian freshman at Connecticut College; the other two are an animal rights activist and female film grad respectively. The cats transcend all those.

The Story


In the middle of the night on October 9th, 2017, a spark started a fire in the hills above Santa Rosa, and gale force winds swept that into the Tubbs Fire, a firestorm that destroyed whole neighborhoods in a matter of hours.  


Hundreds of pets were lost or injured in the panic to evacuate.


In the wee hours of a smokey morning, when shock still froze the community, an epiphany struck the lucky survivors and called them in a voice that bordered on the metaphysical: Go help them.  


Shannon Jay was in a Santa Rosa hospital recovering from complications from brain surgery when he was evacuated in the middle of the night. Since he was ambulatory, he made his way alone through the streets with ash and embers falling around him. His cats greeted him when he arrived home hours later; he realized that they were the lucky ones. There were going to be hundreds of cats left homeless. He would have to help them. 


And even though he had decades of experience chasing criminals in the wilderness as a Law Enforcement Officer for the National Park Service, he realized there were going to be challenges.


(photo Leonora Strawbridge)


His odyssey took him through the scorched wild lands above Santa Rosa, more difficult at night when the starving and injured cats ventured out. Cats who had survived after being inside a burning house. Cats who had dived into storm drains to escape the flames. Cats like "Brutus" who was clinging to life in a drain pipe when Shannon Jay found him.


(photo Shannon Jay)


Their survival stunned him. "I have never seen an animal with a will to survive like a cat. It’s astounding. They just don’t want to leave this planet.”


(photos Shannon Jay)


Shannon and dozens of volunteers like him spent hundreds of hours in the burn zone rescuing the fire cats of Santa Rosa. An even larger community of volunteers converged online to participate in the largest lost pet initiative in the history of social media: matching the lost with the found, tracking down owners, and witnessing collectively the reunion of pets with their families who had lost everything else.



Santa Rosa eventually began to rebuild its ruined neighborhoods, and residents slept easy knowing that the likelihood of an urban fire destroying a town in California was next to nil.


Until one year later, when the Camp Fire wiped out the town of Paradise one morning. It was four times the size of the Santa Rosa disaster.


(photo Douglas Thron)


The animal rescuers knew what they had to do. They packed up their gear and drove up north to Paradise.


But the rules were different now. Other organizations were in charge. Outsiders were not welcome. Not only that, but officials claimed that it was unlikely that any pets survived the firestorm.


After a year of witnessing miracles emerge from a fire that was hot enough to melt glass, the rescuers knew differently, and no one was going to convince them otherwise.


Or stop them. 



Like many animal lovers, I empathized with the families who had lost their pets during the Tubbs Fire, and I became immersed in social media as I followed the stories of rescuers, cats, and their families. I also participated as a matcher and a sleuth, poring over photos and databases to connect them with each other. 


The story of the Fire Cats took hold. 


I was fortunate to acquire initial funding for production and to have Stowe Story Labs, a 501(c)(3) as my Fiscal Sponsor. While we have been out to California three times to film in this rapidly changing story, the Sonoma County Sheriff’s office generously shared their helicopter footage as well as the bodycam video recorded by a deputy as he drove the flames to rescue residents.


To show footage of people fleeing their homes, I developed a technique of digital “painting-on-glass” simulation that is half animation, half painting. The result is an immersive, emotional experience that recreates what people went through that fateful night. 


(animation image Katharine Parsons)


I am excited to be embarking on the final leg of post-production, and grateful to have Stowe Story Labs again as my mentors and Fiscal Sponsors. As a 501(c)(3) non-profit, they make it possible for your contributions to be tax-deductible. 


I am looking forward to having you all on this journey with me.















Use the WishList to Pledge cash and Loan items - or - Make a pledge by selecting an Incentive directly.


Costs $400

Incentives for our wonderful contributors to show & tell & share.

Cash Pledge

Costs $0


Costs $2,400

Douglas Thron has done awesome drone and ground photography in the burn zone. Also loves cats.


Costs $1,600

We can do the rough cut but a professional editor will make this look AMAZING.


Costs $1,800

This is one of the most overlooked items in a movie and absolutely critical for success.


Costs $1,100

VFX should be subtle and that's why experts should do it.


Costs $400

We were lucky to get Philip Craig to narrate our film, but there are still union fees.

Promotional (ARTWORK & POSTERS)

Costs $600

You gotta have a great poster for your movie and you need that talented artist.


Costs $1,300

We are budgeting for 10 festivals, and including a CRU & a DCP. Those are acronyms for film things.


Costs $1,000

That one week run in an LA theater will make this the experience of a lifetime!


Costs $1,100

It's called Errors & Omissions Insurance and people who wear suits and distribute films need this.


Costs $1,980

The SEED&SPARK folks provide the platform and STOWE STORY LABS mentors and provides tax receipts.

About This Team


Katharine Parsons is a filmmaker, novelist and screenwriter (Stowe Story Labs Alumn 2017, PAGE International Screenwriting Competition Semi-Finalist for two years, Table Read My Screenplay Semi-Finalist). She came back from Story Labs energized and ready to dive into her new screenplay when the devastating Tubbs wildfire in Santa Rosa changed her work—and her life—forever. As an animal lover she became riveted by the stories of the cats who beat impossible odds to survive—and by the stories of the rescuers who spent hundreds of hours in the field to find them. An initial grant with Stowe Story Labs as Fiscal Sponsor enable her to finish production for The Fire Cats.




Philip Craig, Narrator 


Philip is known for his outstanding work in the Time Traveler's Wife, Cinderella Man, John Q, and too many television appearances to list including Hemlock Grove, The Exorcist, and Handmaid's Tale. His authoritative yet nuanced delivery combined with an often sly tilt into the sardonic will fit perfectly into our story.

We are ooking forward to his treatment of President Trump's "rake the forests" statement delivered to the victims of the #CampFire. Also, with the number of times that Phil has played members of the clergy (including the Pope), we are hoping that he adds that touch of the divine to the project.



Douglas Thron is our Director of Photography. He is a superlative drone cinematographer who has covered stories for National Geographic, and major news organiizations in the U.S. as well as abroad. His coverage of the aftermath of the Tubbs Fire in Santa Rosa was shown on the news nationwide. His moving drone footage of a USPS truck  driving through a devastated Santa Rosa neighborhood looking for surviving houses to deliver to is the most widely viewed aerial footage in history. He became earthbound to film rescuer Shannon Jay in Paradise for The Fire Cats. Douglas's experience with Shannon was transformative: he went on to pioneer the use of thermal imaging on drones to find animals lost after disasters, and became an animal rescuer in his own right in the Caribbean, California, and Australia. He briefly teamed up with Shannon Jay again last year following the Oregon wildfire. Doug went on to star in his own animal rescue series Doug to the Rescue" on Curiosity Stream.



Melody C. Miller is a cinematographer from Southern California. A graduate of the UCLA film school, she filmed the first trip to Santa Rosa for The Fire Cats.



Leonora Strawbridge is a junior at Connecticut College. She is an up-and-coming filmmaker with an eye for detail and composition. Her gentle energy made her a perfect fit for the project. The fire cats loved her! Because filming cats is, well, as difficult as herding them. Her photography work has been published by the Pulitzer Prize-winning paper Press Democrat as well as been used in the series Doug to the Rescue on Curiosity Stream. Leonora is also the recipient of multiple writing awards. 


I met Raphael Fimm through Sundance last year. I put out a call for recommendations for film composers and he responded with samples of his work. It was a very talented field, and Raphael fit the project perfectly with his experience, talent, and his exquisite sensitivity to the subject matter. Although he lives in Vienna, his roots in the United States are deep (he studied Composition & Orchestration for Film and TV at Berklee College of Music in Boston). He also wrote a gorgeous piece of music to memorialize his cat  and anyone who does that has a deep love for furry family members. I am not going to list his long resumé here, but please immerse yourself in his portfolio at

Current Team