A veteran veterinarian volunteer during fire season, Seely, 67, says he doesn't feel he has the option not to help.
In Butte County, Seely's "turf," the amount of land affected by the fires from July 1 to July 14, went from about 17,000 acres to 53,000 acres. The fires started to finally die down July 13, and Paradise officials expected to start welcoming back residents. Damage is estimated at $53.3 million in Butte County alone, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. One death and 26 injuries were reported in Butte, and dozens of homes burned, according to the state, but no veterinary practices were affected, mainly because the fires primarily stuck rural areas.
Seely assists one of the many animal-rescue groups that have taken action in California in the absence of organized veterinary medical-assistance teams (VMAT). The North Valley Animal Disaster Group (NVADG) in Chico was founded by firefighter John Maretti after a few people died in a fire two years ago because they wouldn't evacuate without their animals and there was nowhere to take them. He sometimes calls veterinarians to assist the group's volunteer workers, but Maretti says he hasn't had to lately.
"For these last two incidents, I haven't had to call anybody, because they've been calling me," he says.
In addition to Seely, Maretti says another local veterinarian and students and staff from the University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine have been stopping by the group's emergency shelter at Spring Valley School to help care for evacuated animals.
In fast-moving fires like the first one of the year a few weeks ago, a lot of livestock can be lost, Maretti says. The second fire resulted in some burnt paws but very few deaths; this fire is very slow-moving and has resulted in no fatalities, he says.