Southern California sanctuaries survive wildfires
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 2009:
LOS ANGELES– Winds gusting over 50 miles per hour drove the
second major wildlife in the Los Angeles area in less than a month
south from Fillmore toward the city of Moorpark as ANIMAL PEOPLE went
to press on September 22, 2009. Evacuations of large animals were
ordered in three areas believed to be in the path of the fire.
Ironically, the animals included some of the more than 600
horses who were moved earlier from the path of the 160,000-acre
Station Fire, east of Los Angeles, a few weeks before. The Station
Fire on September 22 was reportedly 94% controlled, after ravaging
the Angeles National Forest for four weeks, but threatened to blow
up again due to the wind storm.
“Some horses were taken to the Santa Anita racetrack,”
ahead of the Station Fire. “Others were trucked to a community
college in the San Fernando Valley. Others were transported north to
Ventura County. The Los Angeles Equestrian Center, in Burbank,”
accepted 330 evacuated horses, wrote David Finnigan of Agence
Most homeowners who had to evacuate were able to take smaller
pets with them. But some needed help. “The Pasadena Humane Society
suspended normal shelter operations to become a 24-hour emergency
center for needy pets,” wrote Lindsay Barnett for the Los Angeles
Times. “The society operated two evacuation centers. At peak the
shelter was home to more than 370 dogs, cats, and assorted
wildlife” displaced by the fire, “in addition to the homeless pets
it already housed.”
The Station Fire raced out of control in the hills between
the DELTA Rescue, Shambala Preserve, and Animal Acres sanctuaries
to the north, and Wildlife Waystation to the south. The fire burned
toward the north first.
Animal Acres evacuated all 125 resident animals to a
temporary site near Palmdale, and postponed and relocated a
fundraising gala, eventually held on September 12.
“Fire officials ordered Shambala founder Tippi Hedren, who
starred in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1963 horror classic The Birds, to
evacuate days ago,” reported Associated Press writer Solvej Schou on
September 1. “But she sees no need to load up the animals yet.”
“Nobody wants lions and tigers going down the road,”
responded Hedren, 79. But she kept transport crates and trailers
ready to move the 64 big cats at Shambala if necessary. Meanwhile,
Hedren told Schou, Shambala clears fire breaks every six months and
has a 22,000-gallon water tank, a lake, pumps, and backup
generators on site for firefighting.
DELTA Rescue is comparably equipped, and has a helipad used
by county firefighters. Both Shambala and DELTA Rescue fought
Station Fire sparks at their fencelines until the wind turned the
fire toward the Waystation.
Waystation staff and volunteers scrambled to haul animals to
the Los Angeles Zoo, Hesperia Zoo, and other locations. Short of
transport cages, Waystation founder Martine Colette appealed to the
public in search of more. Two Waystation chimps briefly escaped
while being unloaded at the Los Angeles Zoo. One chimp got into
adjacent Griffith Park, but both were soon recaptured.
“We are safe now,” Waystation board member Peggy Summers
told ANIMAL PEOPLE on September 8. “We were told by the fire
department that the last 30 animals left would be protected at the
center of the compound. These were very large and old big cats and a
couple of bears, who might not have survived sedation and moving.
The fire department and Forest Service set backfires, dug trenches,
removed brush, and were there for four days. The fire raged around
us and came within a ridge, but was contained. There were water
drops and chemical drops to protect the perimeters.
“Not one animal has been injured,” Summers said, “and we
are now bringing more than 350 of our beloved animals home.
Volunteers stayed with the animals where they were placed, so that
they would be fed, loved, and see a familiar face. We have never
had to evacuate before in 37 years,” Summers recalled.
The effort to save the Waystation was expected to increase
the longtime Los Angeles County pressure on Colette to relocate. An
inholder within the Angeles National Forest, the Waystation has
reportedly operated without a conditional use permit for years, in
part because it lacks water reserves.
A major blaze hit the Auburn area in northern California
while the Station Fire burned. Called the 49 Fire, it roared toward
the Animal Spay & Neuter Clinic in Auburn and “circled the parking
lot but didn’t reach the building. The lone cat there managed to
retain one of her threatened nine lives,” reported Auburn Journal
staff writer Gus Thomson. The Placer County Animal Shelter housed 48
animals for evacuees.