California's deadliest wildfire leaves thousands of animals in need of rescue

The Camp Fire, the deadliest fire in California’s history, has consumed a staggering 140,000 acres—and it's still only 40% contained.

The fire's ferocity and immense speed forced people to flee quickly and many were separated from their pets in the rush. Due to restrictions at human shelters that do not accommodate pets, many people who rescued their pets from flames had to drop them off at temporary animal shelters run by North Valley Animal Disaster Group (NVADG), a well-respected animal welfare organization.

As the number of animals in Butte County's shelters climbed to nearly 2,000 and with many more animals behind fire lines in need of rescue, our partner NVADG called on IFAW's disaster response team for support.

This arm of IFAW is made up of a team of emergency rescue experts ready to mobilize at a moment’s notice for disasters both stateside and abroad.

Our disaster response team immediately assembled, drew up plans, packed necessary equipment, and joined our friends at NVADG in Chico, California.

Upon arrival, the team learned that critical and costly wildland fire protective gear, essential for safely rescuing animals behind fire lines, and several radios were lost in the fire. The team acted quickly and located a nearby distributor of the gear to order replacements—which arrived in less than 24 hours. This has allowed animal rescues to continue seamlessly and safely.

One of the community’s largest needs is for temporary animal shelters and our disaster response team has served a key role in fulfilling this need by offering their animal welfare expertise. In addition to rolling up their sleeves to clean cages, walk dogs, and calm frightened cats, the team is providing guidance on shelter operations to the amazing stream of local volunteers offering their precious time to help those in need. It’s not just cats and dogs that are arriving in shelters, but also chickens, bearded dragons, horses, pigs, goats, rabbits, brightly-colored macaws, and rats too — all receiving the unique care they need. As reunification processes continue, the stress is alleviated ever-so slightly from people dropping off or searching for their beloved pets.

IFAW responders are also supporting animal search and rescue missions behind fire lines, and will continue to do so in the coming days.

One bright point that's impossible to miss in all of this devastation is the fierce altruism and big-heartedness of Californians who are offering to help both people and animals. Even those whose homes were completely lost in the fire are at the front lines, working tirelessly to take care of those in need as this massive rescue and recovery effort continues.

To support our animal rescue efforts in California and other places around the world, please visit our donation page.

--SW

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Senior Program Advisor
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Shannon Walajtys
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Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
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