Wildfire Heroes Are All PETA’s 2018 Person of the Year

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7 min read

PETA is recognizing the efforts of countless fire departments, organizations, agencies, and individuals who helped rescue animals during the unprecedented 2018 California wildfires. Many lost their homes, sustained burns, and dropped everything to save the lives of humans and other animals—for those selfless actions, 2018 is dedicated to them.

Bernie was rescued by the San Mateo Fire Department from behind a home in Magalia. One fire fighter said, “The home and the entire neighborhood had burned to the ground. We are very fortunate Bernie survived.”


PETA’s awardees also include the numerous animal shelters that worked tirelessly to make room for companion animals and reunite them with their families.

California endured its most destructive wildfire season on record in 2018 as 7,983 wildfires charred over 1.8 million acres across the state.

PETA's 2018 Person of the Year

The Northern California Camp fire stands as the single most deadly and destructive fire in California history, with a death toll of at least 88 humans. Meanwhile, the Woolsey fire in Southern California claimed at least three lives. We can only imagine how many animals—both wild and domesticated—were killed.

PETA is adding a leaf to our Tree of Life memorial dedicated to those who died during the California fires.

PETA's 2018 Person of the Year, Tree of Life

No matter the size of the rescue effort, PETA’s 2018 Person of the Year award is dedicated to everyone who helped save lives in California’s roaring inferno.

Click on the dropdown lists below to see the numerous entities we’ve recognized with this award, and of course, so many others deserve recognition as well:

The Camp Fire

Fire Departments and Other Agencies:
Veterinary and Animal Organizations:
  • Butte County Animal Control and the North Valley Animal Disaster Group housed at least 1,601 animals.
  • The American Veterinary Medical Foundation (the charitable arm of the American Veterinary Medical Association) donated $20,000 to help California’s animals and the veterinarians treating them.
  • The Butte Humane Society set up a pet food and supply pantry and offered free microchipping and core vaccines for animals whose families were displaced.
  • The California Veterinary Medical Association deployed nine coordinators to manage field operations and 313 volunteers to assist nine animal shelters providing 2,700 animals with care. Thirty veterinary hospitals received sick and injured animals for care, more than 400 of whom received extensive and/or ongoing treatment for burns, illness, or other severe conditions.
  • The Henry Schein Disaster Relief Hotline helps veterinarians who have been affected by the California wildfires reopen their practices as soon as possible.
  • The Marin Humane Society took in homeless animals—including four dogs, 16 cats, and two potbellied pigs—from other shelters so that they could make room for lost and evacuated animals. The organization also sent staff members to relieve those who’d been working around the clock at animal shelters surrounding the fire zone.
  • Muttville Senior Dog Rescue sent a veterinary team to assist at an animal-evacuation site near Butte County and is taking in adoptable senior dogs from Butte County shelters so that those facilities can make room for displaced and injured animals.
  • Working with law enforcement, the North Valley Animal Disaster Group has fielded more than 3,000 phone calls, has helped people with animals at three temporary rescue facilities, and is currently caring for more than 1,400 animals. The group’s vigorously trained evacuation volunteers help animals in disaster areas, and volunteers who lost their own homes, including Jon Trojanowski, continue to help reunite families with their animal companions.
  • The San Diego Humane Society deployed an emergency response team made up of six humane law enforcement officers with FEMA training to Butte County to assist in animal rescues.
  • San Francisco Animal Care and Control has assisted overburdened shelters in Butte County by taking in injured animals for care, attempting to reunite lost animals with their guardians, and finding foster homes for those whose families are still missing.
  • The SPCA for Monterey County took in homeless animals—including 21 cats and kittens, five dogs, and one puppy—from other shelters so that they could make room for lost and evacuated animals. The organization is providing veterinary treatment, vaccinations, and spay or neuter surgeries before putting the animals up for adoption.
  • The University of California–Davis Veterinary Emergency Response Team (consisting of veterinary students and staff) rescued and tended to injured horses, cats, koi fish, goats, dogs, and other animals—all free of charge to their guardians.
  • Douglas Thron filmed Shannon Jay rescuing a cat who was stuck between parts under a burned-out truck. Jay jacked up the truck, pulled the animal out, and put her into a carrier. He also saved numerous other cats during the fires.
  • Daniel Sauvageau filmed three days’ worth of animal rescues and helped save 17 dogs, 12 cats, six goats, and a donkey named Waffles in Magalia.
  • Sam Johnson(of The Bachelorette) shared several videos of himself attempting to save baby animals before the flames reached Calabasas.
  • Lashay Wesley and Rik Peavyhouse of KATU Portland helped rescue a cat.
  • Jerry Kirk posted a message on Facebook and received more than 500 calls from Butte County residents asking for help rescuing cats, dogs, llamas, goats, and horses. He led a group of cowboys who worked with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection to rescue eight horses—whose owner said that she had to flee without them—from a home in Paradise. Two had burns and needed veterinary care.
  • Justin Jones created Cowboy 911 on Facebook for people to both ask for and provide help. Since the fires, it’s grown to more than 19,000 members, who’ve rescued thousands of animals. Cowboy 911 volunteer Cassie Porter has sifted through countless burned carcasses in her quest to save one cat, two miniature donkeys, and six goats from the rubble in Paradise.
  • Jeff Hill and Geoff Sheldon rescued a mule who was trapped in a backyard swimming pool.
  • Chrissy Morin, Michelle Hurst, and Marilyn Litt created California Wildfires Pets on Facebook and Twitter to reunite companion animals and their guardians

The Woolsey Fire

Fire Departments, Agencies, Animal Organizations, and Individuals:

Be Ready When Disaster Strikes

Remember: The question isn’t whether a disaster will strike—it’s when. Animals must never be left behind. Just like us, our animal family members are terrified when natural disasters hit. It’s up to animals’ guardians to make sure that they’re evacuated safely. Anyone who evacuates and intentionally abandons animals to fend for themselves may be prosecuted.

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