Rescue Ranch took in 159 fire dogs evacuated from the McKinney Fire zone, between 12:30 a.m. Saturday morning and Monday afternoon. Today, Wednesday, the number is 161. The vast majority of the fire dogs belong to evacuated families, three are strays. We also took in a handful of non-fire related strays which do not figure in the fire count.
With our team working day and night to meet the challenge, the ranch has so far been able to absorb the sudden influx of dogs. And we are ready to continue as long as the crisis persists. We’re working hard, but we couldn’t do it without our amazing extended community, which, as usual, has rallied to support our efforts. Our motto is “we do it for the dogs,” and we know that we do it best when we do it together. The community’s fantastic support will be the subject of next week’s article.
The Crisis Begins
Friday, July 29, 7:16 p.m.
Smoke from the McKinney Fire was visible from the Rescue Ranch Adoption center. By 7:22 p.m. it had widened and appeared to actually be coming from three separate points.
By 8:10 p.m. going up the driveway home off of 263. The sky was getting menacing here and fire choppers are ferrying water to the McKinney Fire zone behind the hills.
The Longest Day
Saturday, July 30, 1:52 a.m.
Assistant Manager Ari Strasser had already received several cats and dogs when I got there to help out and document what was happening. I went inside and fed the kittens, then cleaned their crate. Understandably, Bandit, the black and white kitty, was none too thrilled about his new digs.
Then a car pulled up. It was covered in ash and looked very full. It was. The two evacuated human occupants were not only delivering their four dogs into our care, but also a 16-year-old cat named Silas, a black cat named Kiki, and a parrot named Ruby!
Saturday, July 30, 2022, 9:30 a.m.
Later that morning, another visit to the Adoption Center revealed that more dogs had come in. The cats and Ruby the parrot were ready for transfer to the small animal evacuation center, which was initially staged at the Siskiyou Humane Society Thrift Store before it moved to the Montague Community Center. When I entered the space where they were kept and started saying hello to the cats, to my surprise I heard a short, “Hello!” coming from the back. I looked up and saw that Ruby, being a polite bird, was simply responding to my greeting!
Saturday , July 30, 11:40 a.m.
I learned that we had received an evacuation order. I helped my housemates load up some of their 24 foster puppies and two nursing moms into the Rescue Ranch Van. Then they packed their six dogs into a truck, and I evacuated with my four dogs. The smoke above the hills behind us continued to spread.
First, I checked in briefly at the Adoption Center, where staff and volunteers were working non-stop doing in-takes and making sure all the dogs were cared for and their spaces cleaned. From there, I could see that the smoke was spreading at an alarming rate above the hills to the west.
My next stop: Rescue Ranch Sanctuary, where staff and volunteer fosters prepared spaces for the foster puppies and moms before unloading them from the air-conditioned van. Nursing moms and pups need special accommodations, and it took a little while to get everything set up for them.
Back at the Adoption Center, kennels were filling up fast. That’s when I learned that we had two strays, including a puppy who had been brought in by an independent journalist covering the fire in the Klamath River area. The pup’s condition was good, although his whiskers and eyebrows had been singed off by the heat. A third stray came in later that afternoon. As I left around 5 p.m., an orange sun peered eerily through a dense, smokey sky.
Saturday night 11:30 p.m.
When the Adoption Center reached a complement of 107 fire dogs, 17 Rescue Ranch residents were transferred to the Sanctuary to make room for more evacuees. It took another hour or so to get them settled for the night. Yreka staff left, knowing that the next day would start early.
159 Mckinney Fire Dogs come in between Saturday and Monday
Between Saturday and Monday, I photographed many evacuee dogs as the kennels filled up. First we had fewer than 10 dogs, then there were 11, then 20, then 74, then 90, then 107, then 139. Finally, by Monday afternoon we had taken in a total of 159 fire dogs and a handful of non-fire related strays. All of that in less than 72 hours!
Evacuee dogs are housed throughout the Rescue Ranch facility:
Sunday, July 31, was a day of highs and lows, relief and tears
By now, you will have guessed that the stray puppy was Patches, the fire puppy who went viral when his rescuer, Jonathan Rivas, posted a video showing him emerge from the ashes of a burned down home. He was reunited with his owner James “Mac” Benton who lost his house to a fire tornado. It was an emotional moment.
Unfortunately, Mac found the remains of one puppy, Tanner, in the ruins of his home. He saw no sign of the others, though. Mac is still hoping that someone will call Rescue Ranch with news of his German shepherd, Trooper, and Brutus, Patches’ other sibling.
Another bittersweet incident involved a stray found tied to a tree near Greenhorn Park in the evacuation zone. This poor dog was in terrible shape: dirty, matted, thirsty, and scared. The good news is that she was brought to Rescue Ranch where staff and volunteers immediately began to care for her. They gave her a bath, cut away her matting, and did their best to soothe her. This dog deserves so much more than being abandoned to her fate tied to a tree during a fire emergency.
Wednesday brought good news for some Evacuees!
Christi Everett and her companion came to pick up 3 dogs this morning: Aura, Mutt and Maizy. It was hard to tell who was happier: the dogs or the humans! First they picked up Bandit, who spent the first night of his evacuation at Rescue Ranch before transferring to the cat evac.
These evacuees were lucky, they were going home. Somewhat miraculously, although her companion did lose a travel trailer to the fire across the street, neither of their homes was harmed! Yay! Sometimes it’s all good news, and we can all use a little of that!
It’s not over yet, the McKinney Fire is still burning
Since Monday, our numbers have hardly gone up: total in-takes overall stand at 161 so far. With evacuations lifting in some areas, some dogs have even gone home and more may return to their families tomorrow. It almost feels like the crisis has passed, except that late this afternoon, new evacuation warnings were issued in other areas of Siskiyou County, west of the burn zone. So, as I write this, we remain on high alert despite the apparent lull.
If there are no new evacuations, Rescue Ranch could still see another wave of in-takes once recover and rescue operations begin in earnest throughout the burn zone. That’s when we would expect to receive more strays, some of them probably injured and requiring treatment. In the meantime we will continue to watch over all of the wonderful dogs that remain in our care.