Not a day of rest for firefighters smothering the remnants of the Camp, Hill and Woolsey fires here in California. Nor for those emergency responders and everyday folk whose generous response to tragedy was automatic.
As residents return to leveled neighborhoods, some find stunning bouquets of life pushing up through the scorched earth - and reasons to persevere amid circumstances under which one could easily give up.
Walking among the ashen remnants of his Paradise, California, neighborhood, Jeff Hill stumbled upon a stray horse partially submerged in a neighbor’s swimming pool. Apparently, the horse jumped in to escape the flames and got caught in the pool cover which, ironically, saved her life by keeping her head above water.
Jeff and a friend unhooked the pool cover and pulled the horse to the shallow end where they guided her up the steps. In a Facebook post last Sunday, Jeff wrote, “She got out, shook off, loved on us for a few minutes as a thank you and walked off assuring us that she was OK.” Hill called rescuers who came and escorted the horse to safety.
Many evacuees were away from home when the blazes broke out and were separated from their beloved four-legged and feathered family. Rescuers combing through charred areas have saved a veritable Noah’s Arc of animals including dogs, cats, horses, donkeys, ducks, a rabbit, an alpaca, a turkey and a tortoise. In Butte County, Highway Patrol officers scooped up a pot-bellied pig.
Upon learning that his friends had evacuated from Magalia, California, and were unable to get all their animals out on time, Dan Sauvageau of Roseville drove 90 miles to gather the remaining clan: a donkey, a mastiff puppy, three goats and a cat. While Sauvageau was in the area, he rescued 17 other animals and brought them all to a makeshift shelter at Chico Airport.
“It was very sad and emotionally draining,” Sauvageau told CNN. “Seeing the total devastation of everything - it’s surreal.”
Animal advocate groups and Good Samaritans are now scrambling to shelter displaced pets and reunite them with their human parents.
Sandy Doolittle, a volunteer with the North Valley Animal Disaster Group, lost her own home in the Camp fire. But she is determined to help reunite families with their lost pets.
“People don’t give up,” Dolittle told the Chico Enterprise-Record. “Cats and animals are coming in every day. While I was there [on Sunday] a couple came in and found their cat.”
One out-of-state group is helping as well - and using the power of the web to spread the word.
Since 2012, Chrissy Morin, Michelle Hurst and Marilyn Litt have spearheaded efforts to reunite pets and their human parents in the wake of natural disasters. California Wildfires Pets is their latest on-line collaboration. The group has established digital footholds on Facebook and Twitter using pages instead of groups “because of the ability for them to be 100% public and searchable . . ,” Morin told CNN. “By having organized albums on Facebook, we are able to help people look.”
I’m not always fond of humans.
But on this “day of rest” before Thanksgiving, I’m grateful for those who remind us that our best can live just beneath the surface.