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July 2008 - Fires

July 08, 2008….Mission Accomplished

The last emergency shelter closed today at noon and Noah’s Wish volunteers are heading home. Great job everyone!!

The Butte County Fire Complex was a series of fires started by lightning strikes that kept the skies over Northern California in a red haze for more than a month. During this time Noah’s Wish deployed to two separate incidents.

On Saturday evening, June 21, 2008, Noah’s Wish volunteers, who assisted North Valley Animal Disaster Group at the Humboldt Fires the previous week returned to the Chico area for a post-fire barbeque and potluck. As they drove up the highway, we watched single bolts of lightning streaking down from the sky, seemingly connecting to the dry, golden hills. Plumes of smoke were scattered throughout the region.

The next day, Sunday, a Region Coordinator 1 received a call from North Valley Animal Disaster Group asking if we could be available to respond again. Lightning strikes had ignited more fires, and winds were turning the flames toward populated areas On Monday, June 24, the call went out and Noah’s Wish Region 1 volunteers began deploying back up to Butte County.

This time the animal evacuation center was assigned to an elementary school, Spring Valley in Oroville. The center was a co-shelter with the American Red Cross. The multipurpose room at the front of the school served as a dining hall and a multipurpose room. Offices provided locations for the radio operators, the “Animal Rescue Hotline, and an “Animal Response Command Center”. Darkened rooms off to the side provided sleeping areas. Some families opted to camp out in the parking lots with their animals; others set up cots with their animals in segregated animal areas, or camped on the lawns with crates for their critters.

The animal shelter was situated in or near classrooms – the kindergarten play area was the primary dog area, lined with crates. One classroom served as the cat room, which was nice as it was air conditioned and had a sink with running water. Next door, another classroom served as the Bird/Rabbit/ Pocket Pet Room.

As a co-shelter with the Red Cross, many families came to visit their pets multiple times a day, some providing total care – feeding, cleaning, exercising and grooming, then helping wherever needed.

Daily temperatures hovered in the 90′s, with skies so smoke-filled that the sun was a distant red ball glowing through the grayish-purple haze. The smoke was so heavy for a few days that CalFire was unable to send in helicopters or planes to air drop flame smothering products.

Finally, the lightening conditions ceased and firefighters were able to begin making progress on containment of the fire, On Sunday, June 29, evacuation orders began to be lifted; weary evacuees were able to go home and the shelter at Spring Valley Elementary was dismantled. As a backup, an auxiliary shelter was designated at a nearby high school in the event that the fire flared up again or winds shifted. Noah’s Wish set up a small shelter, caring for eight animals over a 48 hour period.

Tuesday, July 1st the auxiliary shelter was demobilized. Animals were either reunited with or returned to their families, or housed at North West SPCA in Oroville for reclaim/placement.

This was Region 1′s first response where we sheltered animals in virtually the same space that people were housed, and we met those challenges. Twenty Noah’s Wish volunteers responded from all over California , including some from Region 5 in Southern California . Over 300 animals were cared for over the nine days of the deployment.