A California group has rescued hundreds of animals from the Caldor fire as it rages west of San Francisco. The blaze, which began Aug. 14, has burned more than 117,700 acres and is only 9% contained, according to Cal Fire.
The Amador evacuation team, a group of 39 members and dozens of temporary volunteers, have rescued 483 animals since the fire started on August 14. Workers keep animals safe at a ranch in Jackson, 132 km away.
Valerie Anderson, a dispatcher and group secretary, said the organization helps local animal control and rescue organizations with transportation, care and veterinary assessment – all of which can be hard to find in the midst of ‘an evacuation zone.
“We live in California,” Anderson told CBS News. “So it’s not if we’re going to have another fire, it’s when.”
In 2015, the organization was founded in response to the. As the blaze spread across the state, the group helped save 800 animals from the path of the blaze. The group has saved thousands of animals since then.
Families with larger animals or livestock such as horses, goats and cows can be difficult to transport when forced to evacuate. The group says some animals are left behind and forced to fend for themselves, while others die in enclosures. The group aims to protect animals that cannot enter the evacuation shelters and find them temporary homes.
On Tuesday, the fire destroyed 455 structures and still threatens 17,000 others. The blaze spread to less populated areas of northern California, but still forced 35,000 residents to evacuate, according to the governor’s office of emergency services. As of Monday, 641 residents were staying in shelters and only two fire injuries were reported.
Resident Wendi Spiers brought her three alpacas to the ranch while her family waits to see if the fire reaches their home in Fiddletown. Spiers said she and her family were still living at the home, but were ready to evacuate if the fire reached their home.
“We’ve been living in California for most of my life. So you always think about it, but at the end of the day you’re like, ‘Yeah, I was panicking,’ Spiers told CBS Sacramento.
The ranch holds 467 of the rescued animals, while 16 have been returned to their owners, Anderson said. Volunteers often go out of their way to reduce stress levels for owners and animals. They often coordinate with vets and horse trainers to schedule visits and spend time learning the names of each of the animals.
“[The animals] are out of their elements, they are not with their owners, ”Anderson told CBS News. “There are a significant number of pet owners who are not in the area. They contact us daily, sometimes several times a day to check on the condition of their animals, because if they know their animals are safe, that also releases their stress levels. “