Camp Fire Recovery

Camp Fire Recovery

  • Start Date: November 2018
  • Status: In Progress
  • Location: Northern California
  • Partners: Alley Cat Allies

Project Overview

The Camp Fire is the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history and the deadliest in the United States in 100 years. The town of Paradise, California was essentially destroyed and other nearby communities heavily damaged. Within the first few weeks after the fire, over 2,000 dogs and cats were rescued but there are hundreds of cats still in the fire zone needing rescue.

FieldHaven operated an emergency evacuation and rescue center for 23 days beginning the day of the fire. During that time, about 100 cats were cared for as well as other “critters” including birds, rabbits, chickens and reptiles.

Learn more about our Recovery Center

Ongoing Efforts

  • Fostering for fire victims who can’t have their cats with them until their living situation stabilizes
  • Providing rehoming services for victims who unfortunately have to surrender their cats due to hardship
  • Providing veterinary care for any Camp Fire cats in our foster and adoption programs
  • Searching and trapping cats still in the fire zone. Owners are requesting the help of our expert trapping teams to locate and rescue their beloved kitties who lives are still at risk.

Your ongoing support will help us keep our Camp Fire program going for months to come. The cats of Paradise and their people need us.

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Thursday, November 8, 2018

10:30 PM: Received phone call from Briana Shuette, Emergency Operations Planner, Yuba County Office of Emergency Services. Yuba and Sutter County had just received a call from Butte OES for mutual aide in sheltering Camp Fire evacuees. Could we establish the sheltering facility for cats? Animals were at the fairgrounds already. Yuba Sutter Domestic Animal Disaster Assistance (YSDADA) could not be onsite until the following morning.

Friday, November 9, 2018

12:15 AM: Received another call from Briana that Sacramento County could provide mutual aide with their animal disaster response supply trailer. I immediately deployed to the Yuba Sutter Fairgrounds on Franklin Avenue in Yuba City with a FieldHaven volunteer veterinary assistant, Heidi Smyth.

4:00 AM: Sacramento County Animals Services arrived and Heidi and I began setting up sheltering. More animals arrived throughout the day and YSDADA set up sheltering for dogs.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Many more animals and people arrived. A call was received from Butte County that we could expect at least 600 more animals. With only space for 65 cats we started looking into other accommodations. All available buildings at the fairgrounds were already being used.

Veterinary professionals, including RVTs and DVMs came to provide medical care for the sheltered animals.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

The “influx” of animals did not arrive on Saturday but evacuation areas were being expanded and more animals did arrive. The cats (and various other small animals/birds/reptiles) were moved to Whiteaker Hall at the Sutter County Sherriff’s Posse at 44 2nd Street in Yuba City. Using sheltering guidelines for spacing, environment and housing this gave us space for up to 120 cats. Our population on Sunday was about 40 cats (plus the other pets)

A FieldHaven volunteer and staff member, both with veterinary training, volunteered at the Del Oro in Oroville shelter for two days. They told me they were very overcrowded and so many animals were still coming in.

We started reaching out to North Valley Animal Disaster Group (NVADG) to offer relief of the very overcrowded shelter in Oroville. Did not receive any response.

The first rescued cats started appearing at our shelter. They were found by authorized parties who were in the burned areas. The rescuers were given verbal authorization by several parties at NVADG and Butte Animal Control to bring the rescued animals to “any shelter that could provide sheltering and medical services.” This was especially important because our shelter was open and staffed 24/7 because many of the rescuers were not able to get animals to us until late at night.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Becky Robinson, President and CEO of Alley Cat Allies (ACA), a national advocacy group for cats arrived at FieldHaven’s emergent shelter to offer assistance with shelter setup, funding and positioning to provide maximum support services to Butte AC and NVADG.

Numerous phone calls were made to Yuba, Sutter and Butte County officials, NVADG management and other parties offering cat sheltering relief for the overcrowded Del Oro shelter. No one would take responsibility for making a decision.

FieldHaven volunteer, Heidi Smyth who had worked at the Del Oro shelter over the weekend along with a FieldHaven staff member spoke to several officials voicing her concerns about the capacity of the shelter. She recommended NVADG respond to the opportunity to transfer some cats to FieldHaven’s shelter which was only at about 40% capacity.

Becky Robinson, myself and several others went to the Del Oro shelter in the afternoon. Becky’s offer of financial assistance was rebuffed by NVADG management. We did tour the shelter and found the conditions for cats to be very overcrowded. Once again, we offered assistance with sheltering with no response.

Tuesday, November 12 – Thursday, November 15, 2018

Continued attempts were made to offer sheltering relief for the even more crowded NVADG-managed shelters. All offers went unresponded to.

Rescuers in the field continued to bring rescued cats to our shelter.

The first reunion of a rescued cat was made. We met the owner in Chico to reunite “Marquis” with her.

Additional funding and supplies were received from ACA to care for the cats coming into the shelter. A supply of traps were received in anticipation of going out to rescue once the fire areas were declared safe for rescuers to go in.

FieldHaven veterinarian, Berta Peterson, DVM took on the role of Emergent Shelter Veterinarian, oversighting the care of all animals in the shelter.

We had so many people coming to our shelter looking for their lost cats that we established a procedure for counseling them. A separate, quiet area was set up where they could have the undivided attention of a volunteer or staff member who recorded information on their lost pets. We provided people with resources on where else to look for their pets and where to report the information.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Communication was received that rescuers could go into the fire area through an organization, Cowboy 911 with oversight by NVADG. In spite of the fact that several of us were credentialed NVADG volunteers we were asked to go through an orientation and swearing in. After this we were asked to report back the next morning

Saturday, November 17, 2018

During the early morning wait for instructions and call sheets we went to the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and asked to speak with Sara Avakian. I spoke with Sara and, once again, offered our assistance with sheltering to relieve the burden on the Del Oro and Chico shelters. She was non-committal.

Late morning we were officially deployed into Paradise by NVADG and Cowboy 911. FieldHaven sent three teams out with a total of seven people with tickets for requests to search for animals. We were successful in making numerous rescues and leaving food at various places where animals were not seen but may be or were seen and we could not capture.

At the end of the day we were informed that there would be no Cowboy 911 teams going in the field on the next day, Sunday.

Monday, November 19 – Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Exotics veterinarian Mira Sanchez, DVM provided exam and care instructions for all the non-cat occupants of the shelter.

For three days we were in the field doing rescues, searches and food placement. In speaking with several animal control officers in the field and from our own experience we could see the move needed to shift from rescue to set up feeding stations and put together trapping plans. We were spotting numerous cats that were described on our tickets as well as others but they were traumatized and frightened. As a result they were retreating from human contact. This is normal behavior with cats that are in a unfamiliar environment and/or have gone through a traumatic event.

We were starting to recognize patterns for some of the cats and were making plans to begin trapping when on Wednesday we were informed by NVADG that all Cowboy 911 rescuers were “no longer needed”.

Friday, November 23, 2018

We had hoped that after the Thanksgiving holiday teams would be allowed to go back in so we could begin trapping.

I started to implement an exit plan for the evacuation shelter as the mutual aide phase of sheltering for Yuba and Sutter Counties was drawing to a close.

Our hope was that we could implement a recovery shelter phase to provide assistance with the still over-burdened Del Oro and Chico Airport shelters. Again, all offers of assistance received no response. There was no further encouragement that our organization along with many others would be allowed to provide assistance in the field

Fortunately, one organization Camp Fire Pet Rescue and Reunification was allowed in to continue rescuing and trapping cats although the need was so much greater.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

A closure date for the Yuba / Sutter OES in Whiteaker Hall shelter was set for Friday, November 30 at 12:00 PM.

A phone call was received from Norm Rosene who identified himself as the PIO for NVADG. I made the assumption that he was calling to get information on the cats we may be transferring to the Del Oro shelter upon closure and welcomed his call. I was truly perplexed when he launched into a rant that FieldHaven was “stealing cats and taking them across county lines” and threatened me with arrest. I informed Norm that FieldHaven was working under the direction of Yuba County and Sutter County OES and we were residing at a Sutter County Sherriff’s Department building. He would need to contact any of those under which FieldHaven was working under the direction of and direct his concerns to that party.

Sunday, November 25 – Friday, November 30, 2018

Throughout the week we worked with each owner of the evacuees to send their pets home with them or find a foster within our network.

We processed intakes for cats that were surrendered to FieldHaven.

NVADG made repeated attempts on social media to discredit the work FieldHaven was doing and our authority to rescue animals.

Several cats were reunited with owners.

The remaining cats (1 adult, 3 kittens) were transferred to the Del Oro shelter. We held these cats until we closed the shelter to minimize their exposure to the upper respiratory infection (URI) outbreak that had been reported at the Del Oro shelter.

The shelter was officially closed on Friday, November 30 at 12:00 PM.