ANGELS CAMP, CA (September 15, 2015) — Members of Grace Hills Covenant Church have helped round up and tend hundreds of large animals that were left behind after their owners fled the raging Butte Fire, pastor Dusty Bach said.
Since it ignited last Thursday, the Butte Fire has consumed 72,000 acres, destroying 166 homes and 116 other buildings that have included barns and sheds. Although some nearby residents were ordered to evacuate, no mandatory order was given for Angels Camp.
People have been bringing rescued animals to the Calaveras Country Fairgrounds “almost nonstop,” Bach said over the weekend.
Area residents have been driving the roads with their livestock trailers in search of wandering animals, Bach said. “People see the animals loose and then they’ll stop and load them in their trailers.”
Even though many of the animals were frightened, the rescuers were ranchers and farmers who are used to corralling them, Bach noted.
The director of the Calaveras County Animal Shelter told a local news organization that his agency did not condone people driving in fire areas to rescue the animals, but residents were determined to save them. As of Monday, more than 500 small pets, mostly cats and dogs, had been taken to the shelter or other agencies.
As well, Bach estimated roughly 500 large animals, including horses, goats, cattle, and pigs, had been taken to the fairgrounds, made famous in the Mark Twain classic short story “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.”
The fairgrounds already had some animal pens, but emergency pens have been set up as well. People have donated equipment and food. Local veterinarians and animal groomers also have been donating their time.
Volunteers documented each animal and painted a temporary brand—a unique identifying number—on each animal’s neck. They posted a database of the information at Frogtown.org, the website for the Calaveras County Fairgrounds and Jumping Frog Jubilee.
On Twitter and Facebook, some blamed evacuees for leaving the animals behind. But local residents took issue. Many who fled had little time to escape. Authorities prevented others from returning home to retrieve the animals, residents said.
Members of Grace Hills and other volunteers also have been helping to care for the roughly 100 human evacuees staying at the fairgrounds. Vern Johnson and his wife, Melissa, operate a food truck as a side business and have volunteered their services at the fairgrounds. “They have been there continuously,” Bach said.