May 12, 2009

The price of wildfires

by pawlitico

We're overjoyed to see furriends like Gerdy Burro get to go home. Gerdy had been evacuated to the Santa Barbara Earl Warren Showgrounds along with other animal furriends who had to move out of the path of the Jesusita wildfire.

Gerdy Burro and Alex, from Las Tejas ranch
Gerdy was joined at the fairgrounds by 120 horses, 20 rabbits, 22 chickens, 3 roosters, 27 goats, 10 opossums, 5 parakeets, 4 pigs, 2 mules, 1 cat, 1 cockatiel, 1 llama, and 1,200 human firefighters too. That's according to the CDFA Public Affairs office.

As with all fairgrounds in California, during an emergency, Earl Warren is used as a staging area for fire and law enforcement officials, and for the OES & Caltrans Operational Area Satellite Information System (OASIS) portable communications hub.

We live well north of Santa Barbara — out of fire's reach this time. Last summer, we were on the edge of devastating fires in Mendocino and Napa counties. For days we lived in a surreal world of smoke and particulate-filled air. It made both Tilin Corgi (aka winecountrydog) and dog-ma sick to their stomachs.

Something that makes me sick is what I infer from the photo of a burned tree silhouetted against the barren background of the burn area in Santa Ynez Mountains.

what's left of a tree in burn area of Santa Ynez mountains
How many wild birds have no home to go to after the Jesusita fire? . . . How many perished in the flames and smoke? . . . How many wild animals, burned and injured, are slowly dying out there somewhere?

The price of wildfires isn't measurable in dollars.

Mendocino Co. strike team, Hopland Fire Dist. members, looking out over San Marcos pass
My buddy Tilin @winecountrydog decided on May 7th that he had to help somehow. He started sending twitter updates to help direct humans transporting companion and farm animals as they were being evacuated. He also tweeted to connect Santa Barbara tweeps with each other. He used a hashtag strategy that enabled his tweets to be seen by the maximum number of peeps in the target area.

Tilin got help tweeting from dog-ma, who took over for him on and off. You'll have to ask them how it felt to watch the evacuation unfold on twitter. A helpless feeling, I 'spoze, especially when they were exchanging tweets with a Santa Barbara fellow who didn't have long to pack and leave.

Dog-ma helped Tilin a lot by finding reports and making phone calls to clarify what alerts needed to be tweeted. They also followed twitter updates by the few tireless agencies, media, and individuals who were tweeting fire and evac news.

If their tweets helped even one human to get furriends to the fairgrounds shelter, or to find the addresses and phone numbers of small-animal and wildlife shelters, it was worth their effort. If they helped someone avoid a closed road or evac area, or to find the food bank, a human shelter, or the Red Cross, it was worth it.

Pawbably those tweets did help the animal shelters get more supplies and equipment sent their way. The shelters urgently needed kennel crates, exercise pens, cleaning supplies, and food for dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, opossums, raccoons, and other furriends.

Fortunately, Santa Barbara humans are wildfire-evac-savvy. I think they responded about as well as humans can do when a natural disaster strikes.

All around Santa Barbara, from Santa Maria to Carpinteria and beyond, humans at animal shelters, pet and wildlife rescue orgs, humane societies (including the SMVHS), and pet resorts/daycare facilities pitched in to help transport, shelter, feed, and foster. A huge amount of supplies and equipment were herded into place to provide prawper care.

If only one could believe that devastating wildfires like this won't happen again.

But I know that's not true.

My comfort is in knowing that Tilin "twitter paws" and dog-ma will help with disaster response, and they'll teach me how to help too.

fire fighter watch dog
Pawleeze visit Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network online to see how you can help with the rescue and rehabilitation of orphaned or injured wild birds and small mammals.

Many animal furriends will be very grateful that you care.

Paw-note: Nosetaps to Parsons, Saxon, and Nicholson.

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