Wildfire Rescuers Are PETA’s ‘Person of the Year’

Organizations and Individuals Saved Thousands of Displaced and Injured Animals

For Immediate Release:
December 6, 2018

Megan Wiltsie 202-483-7382

Sacramento, Calif.

Every year, PETA recognizes a Person of the Year who’s pushed animal rights forward—and this year, the group is dedicating the award to the many organizations, first responders, agencies, and individuals who came together to help rescue and shelter animals during California’s wildfires.

“In the face of the worst wildfires in California history, our firefighters, veterinarians, and everyday men and women alike came together to help the animals in the path of the flames,” says PETA Senior Vice President Lisa Lange. “Each person who pulled animals from the smoke, wrapped the burns on their paws, and found them safe shelter is PETA’s Person of the Year for showing the world how to protect the most vulnerable among us when disaster strikes.”

PETA will add a leaf to its Tree of Life memorial in honor of the numerous human and nonhuman victims of the fires, including the Camp fire, the most destructive and deadly in the state’s history.

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to abuse in any way”—reminds all animal guardians to make an emergency plan for their animal companions, including having carriers ready to grab in case of a fire or other emergency, and not to leave them behind to fend for themselves. Horses and other animals should never be locked in their stalls or confined in any way that renders them unable to flee. Anyone who sees animals in distress and is unable to help should note their locations and alert authorities immediately. More information is provided in PETA’s wildfire-preparedness public service announcement.

Past winners of PETA’s Person of the Year award include Pope Francis, Oprah Winfrey, and Anjelica Huston.

A partial list of some of the individuals and organizations that rescued animals during the wildfires follows. For more information, please visit PETA.org.

The Camp fire, the most destructive and deadly wildfire in California history, began on November 8. It covered 153,336 acres, destroyed 13,972 homes, and killed 85 human victims. Camp fire rescuers include the following.

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 Federal Emergency Management Agency 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.
  • Cowboy 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 began on November 8. It covered 96,949 acres, destroyed 1,643 buildings, and killed three human victims. Woolsey fire rescuers include the following:

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