A drove of donkeys, a herd of horses and even a large tortoise are among the farm animals and pets rescued by a host of volunteers in California as the most devastating wildfire in the US state’s history ravages the landscape.
- Actor Patrick Dempsey’s farm animals were among those in need of rescue
- Sandra Bullock donated $US100,000 to an animal welfare organisation in the wake of the fires
- Not all animals managed to escape the wildfires
More than 42 people were killed when the blaze incinerated northern Californian town, Paradise — some found in burned-out cars or the ruins of their homes.
California police and firefighters have started sifting through the charred debris of homes destroyed in the most devastating wildfire in the state’s history, searching for the remains of 228 missing people.
Despite the devastation, the region’s animal population has not been forgotten.
Humane Society of Ventura County rescue small animals
North Valley Animal Disaster Group has handled about 5,000 calls for service since the fire started.
By the start of the week it had more than 1,400 animals, including guinea pigs, cows, sheep, an alpaca and hundreds of cats, in its care.
Videos and photographs shared on social media by the Humane Society of Ventura County (HSVC) showed workers racing to rescue horses, donkeys, pigs and other animals.
“We were up most of the night [on November 10] answering phone calls and evacuating horses in the path of these fires,” said Jolene Hoffman, shelter director for the HSVC.
Actor Patrick Dempsey turned to Facebook to issue “a very personal thanks” to HVSC and others who “worked tirelessly to evacuate our beloved farm animals”.
Patrick Dempsey thanks rescuers
One rescuer also went “above and beyond”, by diving underground in aid of an animal’s welfare, HSVC said.
A large tortoise in need of assistance was found on a property in Malibu, not far from where HSVC helpers were evacuating other animals.
Helpers plucked it from its subterranean hiding spot and carried it to safety. Its owner is due to collect it within days.
Meanwhile, actress Alyssa Milano asked her Twitter followers for help to save her five horses.
@Alyssa_Milano: If anyone can get 5 horses out the fire please help me
Some recommended spray-painting her phone number on their backs, and releasing them into the wild.
It is unclear how her horses avoided the fire, but she later updated her followers to let them know they were safe.
Not all animals managed to escape the wildfires unscathed.
Some pictures show the burned corpses of wildlife killed in the disaster.
Others show vets tending to animals’ injuries.
Veterinarian Dawn Alves tended to a dog named Fatty who received burns to his eyes and chin in Paradise.
Evacuee Brian Etter escaped the fires on foot with his dog Tone. The pair survived, but Tone’s paws were burned in the process.
Pet owners who could not take their pets with them have turned to social media, sharing images and videos in a bid to reunite with the missing animals.
Some firefighters and cowboys took the time to rescue animals as the blaze took hold.
@carlos_saucedo: firefighter holding injured cat
@MelodyGutierez: There is a group of cowboys rushing around Paradise saving animals
Owners have been advised to check with local rescue points, including airports and casinos, where some animals have been taken, the BBC reported.
Many people have since donated to animal welfare organisation to help fund veterinary treatment.
Sandra Bullock donated $US100,000 ($138,900) to the Humane Society of Ventura County, according to a post on the rescue organisation’s Facebook page.
HSVC said its wish list had been filled at least two times over since the fires took hold.
More than $US34,600 ($48,000) was donated to the North Valley Animal Disaster Group.