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.
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.
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.
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:
- The California Highway Patrol rescued a potbellied pig and a cat who’d sustained second-degree burns on all four of her paws.
- Chico Municipal Airport converted buildings into temporary animal shelters for at least 700 displaced animals, including dogs, cats, reptiles, chickens, ducks, rabbits, and a hermit crab.
- Butte County Fairgrounds housed as many as 1,000 animals, who went through 30 to 40 tons of feed each day.
- The Hayward Fire Department rescued a cat and drove around with food and water for animals in need.
- Strike Team XAL 2011A (Alameda County firefighters from Union City and Dublin along with crews from Piedmont, Albany, and Hayward) found a donkey running along the highway. They lassoed him and tied him to a tree until animal control officers could arrive with a trailer to get him to safety.
- The Foster City Fire Department located, rescued, and fed an injured cat—named “Foster” by the crew—who had burns on her whiskers and paws.
- The Mohawk Valley Fire Department of Oregon used wire cutters to free a doe who was entangled in a power line.
- The Northern San Mateo County Strike Team (firefighters from Foster City, Burlingame, Hillborough, Millbrae, San Mateo, San Bruno, and South San Francisco) rescued a pig and 13 chickens and provided a raccoon with oxygen.
- Ryan Coleman with Fairview Valley Fire Inc.rescued a fluffy cat whose story went viral on Facebook because she refused to leave his side afterward.
- The San Mateo Fire Department rescued a dog, fed him, and tended to his injuries.
- Sacramento Fire Department crew members fed two donkeys out of their own lunch bags, gave them water, called Animal Control for assistance, and waited with them until they were picked up.
- 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:
- Los Angeles Fire Department helicopter pilots rescued two dogs.
- After firefighters pulled a cat from a burning house, ABC Los Angeles reporter Veronica Miracle and her photographer rushed the cat to emergency care.
- San Diego resident Dana Serratore rescued 32 animals, many of them horses.
- Burton’s Pride Animal Rescue’s Christine Arevalo coordinated with 200 volunteers to get thousands of animals—including dogs, cats, tortoises, livestock, chickens, coyotes, camels, and a giraffe—to safety in Ventura County.
- Culver City Firefighters tweeted, “Residents are oftentimes left no choice but to leave their animals behind when wildfires strike. We not only protect human lives and property, but animals as well.”
- The Pasadena Humane Society & SPCA helped the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control’s Agoura shelter evacuate and find housing for the animals there.
- The Los Angeles County Animal Care Foundation sheltered displaced animals until they could be reunited with their guardians.
- The Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control sheltered 815 rescued animals displaced by the fires.
- The Humane Society of Ventura County accepted evacuated animals and rescued two horses from a burned-down home in Malibu.
- MaeDay Rescue and Shelter Hope Pet Shop took in animals displaced by the fires.
- Borchard Community Center, Camarillo Community Center, Zuma Beach, and Los Angeles Pierce College allowed animals at their evacuation centers.
- Celebrities who were outspoken about evacuating their animals included Miley Cyrus, Blanca Blanco, Alyssa Milano, and Rainn Wilson. Shannen Doherty left water out for wild animals near her home, Whitney Cummings checked in on Stanley the Giraffe, and Sandra Bullock donated $100,000 to the Humane Society of Ventura County.
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.