Prince George's County firefighter Tom Robinson and three-week old "Columbo," the kitten rescued from the engine of a car.

About 100 feet away from the auto repair shop in Beltsville, the driver pulled over, knowing that the “meow” sound coming from his engine compartment couldn’t be normal.

The source: a brown-and-white kitten — no bigger than the palm of a firefighter’s hand — that had probably crawled into the car as it sat at the shop for a couple of days.

“It was weird because we got dispatched and we’re like, ‘What’d they say? A cat in a car?’ ” said Beltsville volunteer firefighter Josh Stuhler, who was tasked with rescuing the kitten about 1:30 p.m. Monday.

Stuhler had heard of firefighters pulling cats from trees. In Prince George’s County, he had even read about firefighters rescuing kittens from a storm drain. But a cat in the engine block of a BMW?

“That’s a first,” Stuhler said.

Near Baltimore Avenue and Ewing Road, Stuhler and others sprang into action, first jacking up the car so they could more easily access the engine compartment. Stuhler said that he then banged on the underside of the car while another firefighter stood ready to grab the kitten when it moved to a reachable area. They soon freed the cat.

“It was more scared than anything,” Stuhler said. “It wasn’t hurt at all. Just frightened.”

For now, Stuhler said, firefighters are keeping the kitten in a potato chip box at the Beltsville station. One firefighter hopes to give the kitten to his brother or a friend.