Photographer Carlos Pacheco had stopped in rural North Dakota to capture some images of a controlled burn when he heard an unmistakable mewing.
"I walked over to get some different angles, and I heard a cat meowing, and I kinda looked around and I didn't see anything," he told KVLY. "So, I took a few steps back over to where I was, and it turns out the cat sort of blended in with the trees."
Pacheco said he had been taking photos near Grandin, about 30 miles north of Fargo, for about five minutes before he heard the meowing. The roar of the fire was too loud at first to hear it. But once he zeroed in on the sound, he found two kittens. One was just on the outskirts of the brush and the other was actually trapped inside the burning pile.
Pacheco shielded himself with his jacket and used a stick to push the kitten out of the fire to safety. Then he scooped up the other one and rushed them both to get emergency care.
The kittens were likely born inside a burn pile, which was unwittingly set on fire a few weeks later.
The kitten that was inside the fire had singed fur and whiskers and all four of her paws were burned and blistered, according to Cats Cradle Shelter, which is caring for the cats. The male kitten had no outward signs of injury but suffered smoke inhalation. Both kittens were in shock and were put into an incubated oxygen chamber.
The pair had some early scares with worries about infection, swelling and fever, but after a few days of medical care, they were on the mend. They spend a couple of days apart, but they seemed to rebound when they were reunited. They've been named Pyro and Manni and nicknamed "the little firefighters" by the shelter, which has started a donation page to help pay for their care.
Once the kittens are healed, they'll be up for adoption — and maybe Pacheco will come to their rescue once again. He says he's considering adopting the kittens. Wherever the cats end up, the photographer and the shelter just want the firefighting pair to stay together.