Responding to California’s Wall Fire

wall fire

The devastating wildfire known as the “Wall Fire” has consumed more than 5,000 acres of land in less than a week, threatening thousands of homes and structures across Butte County, California.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) Disaster Response Team deployed Monday to support the North Valley Animal Disaster Group (NVADG) at two temporary shelters established to provide animals with a safe haven while their owners take refuge in local human shelters. Approximately 200 small and large animals have been rescued from behind the fire line by NVADG evacuation teams or dropped off by owners as they left for safety.

Despite increased containment of the Northern California blaze, evacuation orders are still in place. Anxious families wait to know if their homes still stand, unable to cautiously return to their neighborhoods until the orders are lifted.

At least for animal owners there is the peace of mind that their four-legged, furry and feathered family members are safe in temporary shelters with food, water, medical attention and daily care provided by trained responders.   

IFAW Team Lead Jennifer Gardner was not surprised to see how well-managed the shelters were despite running full-speed for the last 48 hours straight. “NVADG is one of the strongest animal rescue teams we work with around the globe,” she said. “We know our teams integrate seamlessly because we train together, plan together and respond together to help animals and their owners in crisis.”

Monday was filled with travel, orientation and briefings at the shelter sites and the Butte County Emergency Operations Center. Luckily the late afternoon hours did not preclude getting to make the acquaintance of several dogs, cats, goats and horses. IFAW team members also helped discharge seven chickens and two ducks to a very grateful owner, Lynne Davidson. “These are the best people,” she said. “I’m so glad my animals were safe here.”

It is bittersweet when grateful owners arrive to be reunited with their animals, because if the winds shift just a bit they could all be evacuating again.

Of course, if that happens, IFAW and NVADG will be ready to help. 

--SW

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