In the line of fire

Vet clinics safe in heavy Calif. fire, but shelters are filling up
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Jul 10, 2008
By dvm360.com staff
Butte County, Calif. - Veterinary clinics throughout a rural county about 90 miles north of Sacramento have managed to stay out of the line of fire so far, but many residents have been forced to flee from their homes and take their animals with them as fires continue to blaze around them.

The 49,000-acre Butte Lightning Complex Fire, started by lightning June 21 and made worse by high temperatures and dry conditions, is threatening thousands of homes. As July began, the fire covered only about 17,000 acres, but local emergency shelters already were housing about 200 animals.

By July 10, after two days of significant fire growth, the North Valley Animal Disaster Group (NVADG) reported it was sheltering more than 500 animals at two shelters in neighboring cities, with more and more coming in.

The fire is only about half contained, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, and is estimated to have cost nearly $40 million in damage already. Conditions were predicted to worsen throughout the day July 10, but local emergency workers say they are hopeful cooler temperatures in the forecast will help firefighters control the spread of the blaze.

It's mostly residences that have been damaged or destroyed to date, according to the state, and no deaths have been reported. Some local veterinary clinics were evacuated due to smoke, but none were in the heaviest fire area, which is mainly rural. Look Ahead Veterinary Services is the most rural practice in the area and closest to the fire, but hasn't reported any fire damage - only a lot of animals to board while their owners seek shelter.

Las Plumas High School in Oroville is one of the shelters being monitored by NVADG and still is accepting small animals, though owners are asked to bring their own cages. Chico State Farm was sheltering large animals, but is at capacity and owners are being asked to find private boarders, according to NVADG.

Many local veterinarians are volunteering at the NVADG shelters, according to one of its volunteer workers, but NVADG Founder John Maretti says there are no veterinary medical assistance teams (VMAT) are present.