On October 8, 2017, the most destructive wildfire in California history broke out in the northern part of the state, incinerating over 8,000 structures and nearly 200,000 acres across several counties.
Forty-three people lost their lives, including Valerie Lynn Evans, known as the “Horse Lady.” In addition to horses, she cared for goats, dogs and a mule neighbors would sometimes encounter when Valerie went on morning walks.
Scores of domesticated and wild animals were displaced or succumbed to the fires. While there is no official tally on how many animals were lost, 10 days after the fires broke out, Time reported that 3,000 animals were displaced in Napa and Sonoma counties.
Rescues and Adoptions
Many local rescues took in displaced animals, including, among others:
On the Sonoma/Napa County Facebook page, pictures of missing animals were posted almost daily. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa became a refuge for farm animals from the surrounding wine country.
Hopalong & Second Chance in Oakland, California, is currently seeking people who want to adopt an animal rescued from the fires.
A Survivor’s Story
Dr. Stephen Seager, Santa Rosa native and adopter of 4 dogs and 2 cats, talked about surviving the Tubbs Fire and personal stories of what his neighbors endured.
Petful: How long have you lived in Santa Rosa? Would you describe it as a close-knit community?
Dr. Seager: I have lived in Santa Rosa for 7 years. It is an extremely diverse yet close-knit community. Everyone has a strong loyalty to Santa Rosa, Sonoma County and Northern California in general.
Petful: What would people from outside the area be most surprised to learn about Santa Rosa?
Dr. Seager: Santa Rosa is the largest city between San Francisco and Portland, Oregon. It’s the home of Luther Burbank, Charles Shultz (of Peanuts fame) and many famous wineries.
Petful: Where were you when the fires broke out?
Dr. Seager: I was playing badminton at the local Boys and Girls Club. I run a regular Sunday evening game. Driving home, I noticed how unusually strong the winds were. Oddly, near my home I passed a house fully engulfed in flames. At 10:30 p.m., I made the 911 call.
Petful: Once you realized the severity of the situation, what was the very first “autopilot” action that kicked into gear? What were you focused on salvaging from your home?
Dr. Seager: I actually went to bed. I was home with my son. My wife was out of town.
My wife called early Monday morning to say we should evacuate as the national news was now covering the fire and had mentioned our neighborhood. I quickly ran out to the driveway and saw a 30-foot wall of flames topped by a 100-foot wall of black smoke about 3 blocks from our house. I ran in and got my son and said take 1 thing. He grabbed his backpack. We put the dogs in the car and headed back to look for our 2 Maine Coon cats, Linus and Lucy (Peanuts again).
Sensing trouble, the cats had somehow climbed inside my son’s large, solid wooden bed stand. Without thinking — and I have no idea how — I tore apart my son’s bedstead with my bare hands, grabbed one startled cat in each hand and ran for the door. We drove directly past that wall of flame and smoke on the way out of our neighborhood.
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