Efforts launched to rescue, reunite animals lost in Valley fire

Animals are everywhere at the Valley fire evacuation center in Calistoga. They are a comfort to their owners, many of whom lost nearly all else in the fire. But they are also a painful reminder of the horses and pets that were left behind in the rush to flee.|

Lost & Found Animals

CALISTOGA — In Calistoga, amid the collection of sorrows, relief, frustrations and worries that makes up the primary Valley fire evacuation center, animals are everywhere.

They are a comfort to their owners, many of whom were stripped by the fire of nearly all else and are now sheltered in various stages of disarray at the Napa County Fairgrounds.

'It means everything, they're our babies,' said Cristi Garner, 41. The fire destroyed the Anderson Springs home where she lives with her mother, she said. On Monday, she sat away from a damp breeze, in a crowded tent with her mother and Zoe and Maximus, a chihuahua and a chihuahua mix.

Along with about 500 people, more than 300 dogs, cats, horses, cows, pigs and goats are now temporarily lodged at the fairgrounds, according to animal care workers.

But the animals are also a painful reminder of those that were left behind in the rush to flee a rampaging fire that has consumed 62,000 acres of Lake County and killed a woman in Anderson Springs.

Seated beneath the canopy outside their mobile home on Monday, in a field of similarly weary evacuees, Charles Clevenger and his wife felt both relief and worry. They escaped with eight dogs but had to leave three horses, a dog and about 40 chickens behind, Clevenger said.

'We had to get out too fast to find them,' he said.

'Our home is gone,' added his wife, Donna Clevenger, 56.

The Clevengers are among an unknown number of Lake County residents who in the rush of evacuation couldn't round up their pets or, in the case of larger animals, fit them all in trailers.

The couple — who said they escaped with flames practically at their heels — have heard the dog they left behind is fine, but have no idea if their horses survived.

'I raised them from colts,' Donna Clevenger's mother, Fran Leigh, 74, said of the horses, which were in a 30-acre paddock when the fire rushed in. 'They're as much family as anybody's pet dog. They come when I call them.'

Across the field, Dave Leary, 71, and his wife Dolores, 56, rested under a tree, their dogs and a cat nearby, and with the fresh memory of having to leave their two horses behind.

As the flames approached, their mustang and American Paint gelding broke through a pasture fence and had fled by the time Leary's wife Dolores, 56, rushed to get them.

'You can't do anything about it, you just have to go,' said Dave Leary about leaving the animals.

'They're resilient,' said his wife, hoping for the best.

On Monday, with the first rush of pets and livestock under good care, attention turned to those animals left behind in the fire zone, especially horses, of which Lake County has hundreds.

'Middletown is big horse country,' said Pam Ingalls, president of Wine Country Animal Lovers in Calistoga, one of four nonprofit animal welfare groups leading the task of caring for the evacuees' animals. Enough donated food and other supplies poured in during the first day of the emergency to sustain all the animals that came with evacuees, she said.

'The second wave now is getting the supplies up there, and getting it up there is going to take manpower and resources,' said Jeff Charter, executive director of Petaluma Animal Services, who was also working at the fairgrounds on Monday.

Money, he said, is crucial. 'We've got to be able to purchase things, we need to pay drivers,' he said.

Lake County sheriff's deputies will begin escorting residents to their homes this morning to feed or pick up livestock and other pets left behind during the evacuation.

On Monday night, a crew of veterinarians prepared to leave for Lake County, part of an effort to search out and assist surviving horses.

'There's still quite a lot up there,' said Vanessa Gant Bradley, a veterinarian with Napa Valley Equine. She paused, then said, 'whether they're with us or not, we don't know. That's what we're going to try and figure out. There's a lot of unknowns.'

Her colleague Claudia Sonder was trying to arrange a cavalry of tanker trucks to bring water to the horses left on the ranches and roaming the wild.

'Horses can't go more than 12 hours without water, that's what we're worried about,' said Sonder, director of the Center for Equine Health at UC Davis.

The tankers left in the early afternoon, five of them carrying 500 gallons of water each. Sonder wasn't even sure where they had come from.

'We put out the call that we needed water and the community responded,' she said.

She and other emergency animal care teams soon were headed for the devastated area.

At just before 6 p.m., John Madigan, a UC Davis veterinarian leading the veterinarian responder effort, entered a ranch property on Hidden Valley Road, above Middletown. The home was burned to the ground, he said.

'We're looking for animals that we can see that are alive that need treatment,' he said. 'It's a house-to-house search and rescue operation.'

By that point in the day, he said, his six-person team had come across perhaps a half-dozen dead horses and about 25 survivors, some of them wounded while trying to escape the flames.

'This was some ferocious firestorm here,' Madigan said.



Lake County Animal Care and Control Center is taking in animals from owners who have no place to keep them and animals that are found without owners. It is filled with dozens of dogs, cats, rabbits, horses and livestock. People trying to locate their animals are urged to go in person to the shelter to try and identify them. The shelter is located at 4949 Helbush Dr., Lakeport. Telephone: 263-0278

On Facebook and Twitter, people are using #valleyfirepets to organize lost/found pets.



Material supplies for animals can be delivered to 1224 Adams St., Suite C in St. Helena.

Financial donations can be made to Petaluma Animal Services Foundation through the donate button on its website, www.petalumaanimalshelter.org, or via mail to 840 Hopper St., Petaluma, 94952. All donations will go to support animals affected by the Valley Fire and will be divided among the animal care organizations managing the effort: Petaluma Animal Services, Sonoma Humane Society, Wine Country Animal Lovers and Jameson Animal Rescue Ranch.

PetCare Veterinary Hospital in Santa Rosa is opening its two facilities, on Fulton Road and Mendocino Avenue, to evacuated pets free of charge. The hospital can be reached at 579-5900.

The Sonoma County Horse Council is ready to help if called upon. 'We have a network of private barns and ranches and people who have stepped forward and expressed a willingness to help and take in horses if they are needed,' said Elizabeth Palmer, president of the Horse Council, who can be reached at 478-8082.


For complete wildfire coverage go to: www.pressdemocrat.com/wildfire

You can reach Staff Writer Jeremy Hay at 521-5212 or jeremy.hay@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @jeremyhay

Lost & Found Animals

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