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MuttShack Animal Rescue and PetSmart Charities Aid Animals In California Esperanza Fire

As families fled their homes in the early morning hours on Thursday October 26, there was no warning. The Esperanza Fire southeast of Los Angeles and West of Palm Springs, California, had ballooned under the influence of Santa Ana winds to more than 19,000 acres as of the morning of October 27. No time to get the animals, no time for crates or even a leash. Sadly, owners left behind not only their horses, lamas, donkeys, chickens, rabbits, but also their dogs and cats.

Many of the families who did manage to evacuate their pets found themselves in the parking lot at the Fellowship in the Pass Church Red Cross Shelter where a MuttShack Animal Rescue team caught up with them.

Pam Anderson, Director of the emergency Red Cross shelter said that many people with animals had come and left.

The air was thick with smoke, and ash was raining down on the parking lot where dog owners, not able to take their dogs into the shelter were camping out in pup tents and
in their cars.

Those who could afford it checked themselves into pet friendly hotels in nearby towns.
Some were prepared. Jane Garner, a small dog breeder was able to get all her animals out, and had set up her puppy runs alongside her RV in the parking lot. Others were not doing too well, having left home without as much as a leash.
The same scenario played out at the Red Cross shelter at Hemet High School. Animals were being boarded in vans, trailers and cars and small travel crates.
When MuttShack Animal Rescue arrived, a small fracas had sent several dogs off in different directions, running out of the school parking lot down busy streets necessitating an instant rescue response. The Incident Command for the Esperanza Animals, Ramona Humane Society in San Jacinto welcomed MuttShack‘s offer to help at the shelters.

Ramona Humane Society had recently published a notice in their Newsletter about the newly passed “PETS Act”
and warned owners not wait until a major disaster such as an earthquake or fire
to prepare. “Be proactive to ensure that your pet will be taken care of.”

MuttShack and PetSmart Charities set up ad hoc facilities for the animals at both shelters.


The Red Cross shelter, run by Madison Burtchaell of the Orange County Red Cross was very accommodating about allowing a small emergency pet shelter adjacent to the School.

Barbara A. Fought of PetSmart Charities, an organization that works with animal welfare organizations and provide assistance in disasters, provided crates and emergency supplies.

MuttShack and Red Cross volunteers, Martin St. John, Tom Hamilton, and Steve Meissner helped assemble the crates to secure a safe environment for evacuated pets.

It was a great relief for evacuees who had camped out in the parking lot to finally leave their vehicles and relax at the shelter, setting up their cots to grab some sorely needed rest. Firefighters and residents reported loss of wildlife and animals. The Esperanza fire burned 34 homes, consumed 40,000 acres and cost five Firefighters their lives before it was contained four days later on October 30. Firefighting operations cost nearly $10 million.

MuttShack Animal Rescue is a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization active in disasters and dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation and care of lost or discarded dogs, cats and other animals.

Richard Chvilicek, East Central Fire Department, David Whey, Chris Harold, Bradley Lineberger, Craig Zieilinger, all of Chula Vista Fire Department, and Stan Milewski, East Central Fire Department.

Martin St. John, MuttShack provides Otto with a leash. Smoke rises from the mountains behind them.

Escape Artist Joey – fully contained. Happy with his blanket and bone at the Hemet School shelter.

Bear gets a treat from a volunteer at the Fellowship in The Pass Shelter parking lot where his guardians are waiting out the fires.

Red Cross Volunteers help set up the crates at the ad-hoc animal shelter.

Manager Connie and “Shacker” gets emergency equipment provided by PetSmart Charities.

Bob Withers, Alpine Fire Department debriefs MuttShack Animal Rescue Disaster Unit on the fire.

Brandy, Ramona Humane Animal Control Officer picks up dogs surrendered for adoption.

Prints of “Queenie the Firedog” photographed in Ramona, California near cedar Falls is being used to raise money to promote animal emergency rescue training efforts and support related training programs for MuttShack Animal Rescue.

Buy: Art Print, Queenie Fire Dog! By Nanette Martin
Nanette Martin is a freelance documentary photographer $19.95

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