The Thomas Fire Impact
On December 4, 2017, what was to become California’s largest wildfire on record roared to life in Ventura County. Burning over 600 homes and displacing thousands, the flames exacted a staggering human and economic toll on the region. But the impact of the Thomas Fire was not limited to people and property, domestic and wild animals were victims of the devastation as well.
Nowhere was this more acutely felt than by families who had to leave behind cats who were either outdoors or too difficult to locate indoors at the time of evacuation. With only minutes to escape the inferno, they had to make the anguishing decision to leave these kitties to fend for themselves. But the old cliché that cats have nine lives is not far from truth. Given the opportunity cats will survive. They will escape, they will hide, they will hunker down and shelter in place until it is safe to come out.
In the first harrowing hours of the crisis, Surfcat Rescue & Adoptions (formerly Surfcat Cafe & Adoptions) was contacted by Alley Cat Allies, headquartered in Maryland. They awarded Surfcat a $5000.00 grant to help rescue, recover, and reunite cats affected by the Thomas Fire– those three “R’s” became Surfcat’s mantra and mission.
Learning from the successes of other rescues faced with similar challenges, Surfcat purchased motion sensor/infrared wildlife cameras, secured donations of plastic storage boxes, food and water bowls, and went to work. Putting the word out on social media, Surfcat made connections with people who were looking for their lost kitties in both the burn areas and in evacuation areas. Setting up “critter cam/feeding stations” and employing expert trappers, Surfcat began identifying, rescuing, and reuniting kitties with their families. These rescues felt like miracles and the reunions gave people who had lost everything new hope for the future.
The Alley Cat Allies grant also gave Surfcat the resources to help victims of the Thomas Fire whose cats were injured. Surfcat was able to pay for a portion or all of the veterinary aid these kitties needed to recover.
The Thomas Fire is out, but the response to this disaster is ongoing. Again following the lead of other rescue organizations on the front lines of the Napa/Sonoma fires and Hurricane Harvey– where lost cats are still being found and being reunited with their families weeks and months after the danger has passed– Surfcat is still in rescue-recover- reunite mode. Surfcat is compiling a comprehensive data base of cats still missing due to the Thomas Fire. If you lost a cat or cats in the burns areas or in evacuation areas you can register them on this page.