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Preparing to evacuate with pets ahead of wildfire

An animal runs beside a building as flames from the Thompson Fire approach in Oroville, Calif., Tuesday, July 2, 2024.
Noah Berger
AP Photo
An animal runs beside a building as flames from the Thompson Fire approach in Oroville, Calif., Tuesday, July 2, 2024.

As California braces for another day of temperatures over 110 degrees, one North State volunteer group is reminding residents not to forget about their pets when preparing for wildfire.

Kate Leyden is a volunteer with the North Valley Animal Disaster Group. When the Thompson Fire outside Oroville ignited Tuesday morning, she said the organization jumped into action.

The group has been working to evacuate animals big and small from wildfires for over 20 years.

It’s made up of about 250 volunteers from around the region. They donate whatever time and supplies they can to help get animals out of evacuation zones and care for the pets of evacuees.

Challenges caring for animals during the Thompson Fire

Leyden said the organization’s 250 volunteers come from every walk of life. A majority of volunteers, she said, can only work weekends and odd hours. But Leyden said they make it work.

“This has been a ferocious fire,” she said. “There’s no question about that.”

The group's small animal shelter at the Del Oro County Hospital is already full, just days after the Thompson Fire began. For larger pets, the group gets help from the Mechoopda Indian Tribe. The group uses the Tribe's horse center at Camelot Equestrian Park to shelter evacuated horses and livestock.

Leyden said one hardship the group faces is funding.

“It's the cost of readiness,” Leyden said. “The rental on the warehouse, the maintenance on the trailers…PG&E peak pricing for electricity.”

The group is asking for donations to help them continue providing food, shelter and supplies for the animals in their care.

How to prepare to evacuate with pets

Above donations, Leyden said, the group is asking residents to prepare; make a plan to evacuate pets and don’t wait until an evacuation order is given. Leyden said residents commonly wait to evacuate if they receive an evacuation warning. But she said by the time an order is issued, it can be too late to evacuate animals.

Another big thing residents can do to prepare for wildfires is to get their pets microchipped. This way if owners are separated from their pets, they can be easily reunited again.

Leyden said residents should plan ahead, gather any medications or special foods and talk to friends and family in case they need help evacuating pets before a wildfire ignites.

Leyden asks residents not to leave their pets behind.

Ava is NSPR’s Morning Edition anchor and reporter. They previously worked on NPR’s Weekend Edition and NPR’s Weekend All Things Considered broadcasts and produced weekly national news stories focused on contextualizing national issues for individual communities. They love NorCal and spending time outdoors.