Frantic weekend for Lake County evacuees in Valley fire
UPDATE 8:30 p.m. LAKE COUNTY
People wanting to let loved ones know of their status — or wanting to check on their loved ones — can do so at the American Red Cross site safeandwell.communityos.org
UPDATE 7:49 p.m. NAPA VALLEY FAIRGROUNDS, CALISTOGA
People fleeing the Valley fire for an emergency evacuation center in Calistoga took with them more than 300 animals — horses, cows, cats, more than 150 dogs, and others — that are now lodged temporarily at the Napa County Fairgrounds.
Many came with hearts breaking over the animals they had to leave behind. One woman had to choose which three of her six horses she would bring, all that would fit in her trailer, said Pam Ingalls, president of Wine Country Animal Lovers, a nonprofit animal welfare group in Calistoga.
“it was just horrible stuff for people to have to deal with,” Ingalls said.
Ingalls and her colleagues were at the fairgrounds at 2 a.m. to help manage the incoming animals.
“People started pouring in,” she said. “Most people said they had literally five minutes to get out — there were a lot of stories from people who couldn’t get their animals out.”
The group, working with other organizations from St. Helena to Petaluma, also took in 28 animals who were resident at the Lakeport Animal Shelter and were, under official policy, to be euthanized to make room for evacuated animals.
All day people were calling to inquire after the whereabouts of their animals, she said.
“I probably took 100 calls, 'Do you have my animal?' " she said.
She had to tell them that the only animals her organization had accounted for came in with evacuees.
Officials at the Sonoma County Horse Council said they were 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.
The Horse Council has also been in communication with the Sonoma County Fair board and is ready to help if the Sonoma County Fairgrounds, which are equipped with stables, were to be opened to horses evacuated from the fire zone, Palmer said.
Also, the 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.
UPDATE 5:30 p.m. NAPA COUNTY FAIRGROUND, CALISTOGA
Janet and Gary Shields, residents of the Lazy S Ranch Resort outside Middletown, went into town around 2 p.m. Saturday to get food and other supplies and information about the fire. They got things like milk, fruit and a large sandwich that their dog got hold of, and went home — and within a few hours their lives were completely upturned. By Sunday they were among thousands of evacuees from the still uncontained Valley Fire trying to make sense of what had happened. The Shields, who were among hundreds of people at the Napa County Fairgrounds in Calistoga, fled their home when the power went out, between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. Saturday, about two hours before mandatory evacuations were ordered. PG&E officials said Sunday about 7,000 customers are without power in Lake County, although it’s not known how many of those customers have surviving residences or businesses. The Shields are staying with a daughter in Napa and counting themselves lucky for what they have. “I really don’t care. I’ve got her,” said Gary Shields, speaking about his wife, “and my dog, and that’s all I need.” As the afternoon wound down in the fairgrounds, people were hunkering down for the evening. Tents were pitched in a large field. Mobile homes, trucks and cars were parked in the lot, where people sat in lawn chairs. People sought answers to questions for which there were not, immediately, answers: was this street address on this street in this town burned to the ground or standing? Clothes were arranged on fences and tables for evacuees to choose from. Volunteers still arrived with supplies ranging from pet food to toiletries. “The most important thing I do is help people and listen,” said Nora Hiller, of Jameson Animal Rescue in St. Helena. She tells people “‘I can’t tell you it’s going to ever be right, but I can tell you it’s going to be better and we care,’” she said.