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Nevada County fire evacuees scramble to keep animals safe

Christine Sparks watches over Eeyore, her 24-year-old horse, at the Nevada County Fairgrounds Monday, where an emergency animal shelter is available for fire evacuees.
Matthew Pera / mpera@theunion.com |

Animal evacuation center

Evacuees can bring large and small animals, including pets and livestock, to the Nevada County Fairgrounds. An emergency animal evacuation center is set up at Gate 8 off of Brighton Street. For information or questions, contact the Nevada County Veterinary Disaster Response Team at 530-913-6506.

Toni Taylor woke up around 2 a.m. Monday when her neighbor called, looking for a trailer to help evacuate seven horses from her Rough and Ready home.

Taylor could smell smoke immediately, she said, as her neighbor informed her of a fire spreading rapidly through the area.

Within minutes, Taylor ushered her cat and two dogs into her car, opened the gates on her property so her chickens and peacocks could run or fly free, and drove to the Nevada County Fairgrounds to volunteer with the Nevada County Veterinary Disaster Response Team.

By 3 a.m., Taylor said, she’d heard from a neighbor that her house had succumbed to the blaze, but the animals she’d left behind were reportedly safe.

“The animals are okay, and that’s what’s important,” she said.

The Response Team — a group of trained volunteers who were galvanized as a response to the 49er Fire in 1988 — are on hand during disasters affecting Nevada County residents, according to Bill Alexander, second-in-command volunteer for the team.

The team sent trailers out to areas that were being evacuated when the Lobo and McCourtney fires began burning Monday morning to help residents get their animals to safety. It also set up an animal evacuation center at the fairgrounds for pets and livestock, which will remain open until evacuations are lifted, Alexander said.

Evacuees streamed in throughout the day Monday, dropping off horses, llamas, dogs, cats and other animals at the fairgrounds. Others came to help out, dropping off hay bales and pet food or volunteering to help check animals in.

Christine Sparks was at the fairgrounds Monday watching over her 24-year-old horse, Eeyore.

Eeyore was evacuated from the Fair Valley Ranch — adjacent to the Fairgrounds — early Monday morning. About 20 horses who are boarded at the ranch were at the emergency shelter.

“I am so grateful to know that these people (on the Response Team) will be here for us,” Sparks said.

According to Alexander, the Response Team keeps meticulous records of animals and their owners, ensuring that no mix-ups occur and that every animal is accounted for. Team volunteers with veterinary expertise monitor and feed the animals throughout their stay at the emergency shelter, he said.


The Response Team has received an abundance of pet food donations, according to Alexander.

Volunteers wanting to help out are always welcome, he said, but the team is in need of monetary donations more than volunteers.

Those who want to donate can drop off cash or checks at the fairgrounds, he said, which will help pay for equipment, gas and operating costs associated with assisting in animal evacuations and running the shelter.


Nevada County Pets In Need is linking county residents offering their help with evacuees who need it.

Patti Galle, co-founder of the organization, said many residents aren’t willing to leave their pets alone during an evacuation. Emergency shelters provide beds and respite for people, but pets have to be left behind at the fairgrounds, she said, which can be stressful for some evacuees.

Pets In Need is taking calls from county residents and is keeping a running list of services offered and services needed. Galle said people have offered to cook meals, provide shelter, watch animals, and babysit, among other services, for evacuees.

The focus, Galle said, is on finding places for evacuees with pets to stay together with their animals.

“It’s a gap that needs to be filled,” she said.

Contact Pets In Need by calling 530-802-3666.

To contact Staff Writer Matthew Pera, email mpera@theunion.com or call 530-477-4231.


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