by Cheshire Kitten on 10 September 2011
in the Special World News section of The Anipal Times
I imagine a lot of you have seen some news about the fires burning in Central Texas while your humans are watching TV or reading the news. At one point this week more than 150 brush fires were burning around Austin, Dallas and Houston. The biggest of them is still burning in and around Bastrop, a city southeast of Austin.
As of 9 September, the Austin American Statesman is reporting that the fires around Bastrop have burned more than 36,000 acres, including 1400 homes. In spite of super amazing efforts by fire fighters, rescue workers and dedicated volunteers, the fires also took four human lives, countless cattle and other farm animals, along with many companion animals as well. Some animals who were left behind are still waiting for food and water, that is, if they were spared the fire’s heat and fury. Authorities are now permitting some of the thousands of people who had to evacuate their homes to return, and what they are finding is devastating.
As far as I know, and I’ve been checking in with pals since the fires went out of control on Sunday, anipals in the area have not been directly hurt by the fires. One of the fires passed only 100 yards from @GizmoAdventures and his house. Gizmo told my sisfur @NutmegTorby, who was tweeting with him a lot on Sunday, “I’m still ok pal. Went for a long walk this morning & surveyed the damage. We were very lucky!” He also posted on his blog Gizmo’s Adventures about the experience. The rest of us in the area are dealing with a lot of smoke in the air, but that’s nothing compared to what people and animals in the path of the fires have faced (and are still facing).
The fire was so big, hot and fast (at one point it was at least 16 miles wide), that the only thing anyone could do was run from it. Even firefighters couldn’t get near it on the ground and had to use planes to try to put it out. For many people, fleeing the fire meant quickly organizing transportation for horses, goats and cattle. It meant evacuating the Bastrop Animal Shelter. It meant a lot of coordination of efforts to find vehicles, carriers and places for animals to stay until it’s safe to go home, if they still have a home.
Austin Pets Alive! played a huge role and is housing many of the animals from Bastrop. Making room for the Bastrop animals involved a huge community effort to foster animals in homes as well. Today, Austin Pets Alive! volunteers are going to Bastrop to rescue animals who were left behind and are trapped in houses. This involves negotiations with the sheriff to get permission to go behind evacuation lines.
The Austin Humane Society also has a large number of lost companion animals. People can check their Facebook page for pictures if they are looking for their fur-someone. As if the fires and all the displaced animals weren’t enough, the Humane Society’s air conditioning went out, according to their blog. With temperatures pushing 100 Fahrenheit, AHS did everything they could to find adopters quickly. The community has responded with open hearts.
There is a lot of concern about 72-hour triggers for euthanasia in the shelters surrounding the fires. If you want to address this issue, check the Facebook page Assistance Information for Animal Displaced by Wildfires. You’ll find posts on the topic from earlier in the week.
Social media provided a means to connect people with needs to people who could help them. Pawsitively Texas has a straight-to-the-point list of contacts for everything an animal guardian might need to know about evacuating and helping. Assistance Information for Animal Displaced by Wildfires (see link above), a community page on Facebook, is still providing up-to-the minute information. This page is staffed largely by one human, who has had a little help, but who has spent the last few days fielding calls, emails and Wall posts to make sure that each call for help was addressed. AIADW reported first that only one veterinarian was on hand at a deeply affected area for triage for the animals coming out of the fire on Monday. A call for help to evacuate a wolf sanctuary found at least some assistance after posting on the page.
By now, more veterinarians have joined the effort. Vets all over the affected area are providing care to displaced and injured animals. KXAN covered the work of a temporary clinic set up by Friends for Life, a no-kill shelter in Houston with experience in disaster response. The Veterinary Emergency Team from Texas A&M University’s school of veterinary medicine has deployed as well, according to KHOU.
For some families, the main priority is now finding lost companions. The same person who started AIADW started Lost and Found Pets from Texas Wildfires on Facebook. I know that there are some other Web resources to help reunite pets and their humans, but I don’t have concrete URLs for the pages. When I find them, I can update this story. If you find one, please include it in a comment on this story.
So many people are working to help the humans and animals hurt by the fires that it is impossible to mention all of them in one news story. We sent our human with several bags of Purina and some treats to donate for a food and supply run the founder of ARF Texas, our fantastic local animal welfare group, is making to Bastrop today. Others in our town have been helping to evacuate horses from the fire’s path. @understandblue, whom many of us know on Twitter has been actively retweeting messages throughout the crisis.
Those affected by the fire are also getting help from organizations experienced in disaster response for animals, like Best Friends Animal Society. Best Friends has committed to give $5000 to Austin Pets Alive! to help fund the wildfire response and is asking all of us to consider helping out by contributing to the cause. As of 9 am on 9 September, the fund had an addition $515. If you have the means, this Best Friends cause would put your money to good use for the animals of Central Texas.
I wish I could report that the fires have been extinguished and we are all safe again, but that is not the case. I know @Garibaldirous, @TeenysFriends and I are dealing with some smokey air, and are currently far from the fires. However, the fire in Bastrop is about 40 percent contained and new fires start every day. With lighter winds, there is less chance that the fires will go wild. Really, the help we need is rain.
All photos are from LOST Bastrop Fire Animals Housed at AHS page on Facebook and are used with permission. If you are looking for a companion animal lost in the Bastrop fire, please check this page. If you know people who lost their companions, please check to see if you recognize anyone. Displaced people don’t always have Internet access for themselves.