San Diego Humane Society

Humane Society Employees Rescue More Than 70 Pets Stranded in Evacuated Homes During Caldor Fire

Initially, the teams were set to return to San Diego on Sept. 4 but at last minute, their deployment was extended by three days

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After helping dozens of animals in the Caldor Fire’s evacuation zones, two teams from the San Diego Humane Society (SDHS) have returned home from their extended deployment.

Brave, animal-loving individuals from SDHS headed to Northern California on Aug. 26 to assist first responders in helping stranded pets that were separated from their loved ones during the blaze’s mandatory evacuations.

“Many animals were left behind either because their owners thought they were going to be gone for a very short time and left them at home or because the owners were away during the evacuation orders and could not return,” said Nina Thompson, Director of Public Relations San Diego Humane Society.

While the pets stayed stranded in their homes, SDHS had quite a dream team that helped rescue them and get them to safety.

The San Diego Humane Society deployed officers to help take care of animals displaced by the Caldor Fire. NBC 7's Audra Stafford shares details of the mission.

“We had two different teams,” Thompson explained. “One was of humane officers who did fieldwork and then we had a team of dispatchers who helped with incident command and dispatching the different fields.”

Initially, the teams were set to return Sept. 4 but at last minute, their deployment was extended by three days.

“There was just a need,” Thompson said. “There’s fatigue up there with all the first responders after such a long fire.”

Humane Law Enforcement Officers Sandra Anderson and Joy Ollinger were among those who made the trip to El Dorado County to help the impacted animal companions. SDHS’ teams made at least 70 rescues during their time near Lake Tahoe and assisted an array of animals that ranged from turtles, chinchillas, chameleons and even a 36-year-old parakeet.

“Some pets were left behind, probably with good intention thinking that they would have enough food or water,” Thompson told NBC 7. “That wasn’t the case in many different rescues.”

In some cases, humane law officers were given permission by homeowners to enter their homes through windows because there was no other way to get inside to help their pets. It’s something Thompson urges pet owners to think about if they are ever under a mandatory evacuation.

“One of the key takeaways is bring your pets with you,” she said. “That way, first responders don’t have to go back in to help them later and put themselves in danger. The other thing is – if you do leave your pet behind, leave a way for us to get in. Leave a key under a doormat or have a keypad lock and give us the code.”

As of Thursday morning, the Caldor Fire had burned more than 215,000 acres and was just a little more than 50% contained, according to Cal Fire.

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