It’s been one week after the Camp Fire began, now the deadliest wildfire in California history.
Over 5,000 firefighters are fighting to contain the 140,000 acre inferno. It’s expected to be fully contained by the end of November, but has already claimed the lives of 56 people.
Evacuated residents are anxiously awaiting word on whether they still have a home to return to.
Bouncing from hotel to shelter to the homes of friends and family members, life has been a surreal nightmare.
Local therapists have donated their time visiting the displaced families to help process and cope. The shock of what’s happened will certainly leave many suffering from PTSD.
For one family, there has been a ray of hope that’s shone through the cloud of destruction and loss.
The Petras family from Magalia, California found themselves in the middle of the chaos.
Their home is the blue dot in the center of this satellite image.
When the evacuation alert was sounded last Friday, mom Melissa had little time to grab her 5-year-old son and flee.
Sadly, she was unable to locate the family cat, Callie.
All this during her 15th week of a high-risk pregnancy.
She shared her terrifying moments on social media, which tug at the heartstrings.
“I close my eyes and try to sleep all I am doing is reliving my fear from reading the warning texts on the fast moving fire, frustration I had that I couldn’t get [husband] Josh on the phone, the panic I had when I couldn’t find Callie, the urgency to get everything to fit in the car, the chaos of the road and not getting into an accident, and now the emotions of the aftermath. Its called PTSD and its ok that we all feel this way.”
Now the family find themselves moving from hotel to hotel.
“It’s not about the house. We could care less, there were items I couldn’t carry pregnant or fit in the car. I hope our cat got away.”
For the next four days, Melissa scoured lost and found animal pages looking for their beloved family feline.
She waited for updates on their home and worried what was to become of their lives.
An amazing mother, she did everything she could to keep her son happily distracted to the horrors around them. In a wonderful plan, 3 families banded together during the tragedy so the kids had others to play with.
All the while, she never stopped sharing others stories, outcries for assistance or fundraisers for those receiving confirmation they’d lost everything.
They finally received relieving news that their house remained standing. It had been 3 since they’d abandoned all hope and fled.
Before the insurance company would pay for ANY repairs though, they’d have to pay the $6,000 deductible! Because they have insurance, they were denied FEMA aid.
Friends have begun a fundraising campaign in the hopes that they will be back in a home by the time the baby is born.
But on Tuesday, November 13th, a miraculous discovery was made, bringing much needed joy to the family.
Callie had been found!
Melissa replied to the Facebook post of a soot covered cat brought to FieldHaven Feline Center.
“Pretty calico that was found in the fire zone today.”
A Good Samaritan had found Callie at the home amid the charred neighborhood.
Amazingly, she was simply waiting on the front porch!
A very friendly cat, she just walked up to her rescuer who brought her to the local shelter.
After confirming Callie was indeed the families missing cat, the staff at Fieldhaven were happy to help further.
“From staff: Well I hope you sleep well knowing that she is happy and safe and being lavished with love by the FieldHaven staff. She is welcome to stay with us if needed.”
Fortunately, the family were able to take Callie, which would free up resources and space for other needy animals.
The days spent without the feline were over as Melissa wrapped Callie in her arms Thursday afternoon.
Not only was their reunion a blessing for the family, it’s renewed hope to the many others who are missing animals.
With the hundreds of animals in FieldHaven’s care due to the Camp Fire, Callie was the first to be reunited with her family!
“We just had our FIRST Reunification!! Through the power of Facebook we were able to match her with her mom within a few short hours. This morning it was a happy, tearful reunion!”
Although many others have been matched to their families, they sadly have no home to return to.
Animals who’ve been injured are remaining with the shelter to receive the much needed medical attention.
While Callie and family have experienced a joyful moment amidst the horror, there are hundreds who are waiting for just that.
Shelters are doing their best but as with any mass emergency, it can be very overwhelming.
“There are some efforts to consolidate the many lists of animals. This is just such an unprecedented event that all our previously “organized” efforts are blown out the door!!!“
To help reunite families, numerous Facebook groups and pages have been started.
California Wildfires Pets on Facebook @Cafirepets has been a go-to for many.
Another page, UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine has updated a photo album of Unclaimed pets from the Camp fire.
FieldHaven has numerous ways you can help them as well during their rescue efforts.
“Many people are asking what we need. At this point we are triply blessed with supplies. Here’s how you can help:”
- Gift cards for stores like Staples, Wal-Mart and Target Store Yuba-City so we can go purchase things we find we need immediately (eg, chicken baby food and clip board this morning).
- Veterinary supplies – if you work for a veterinarian or vet supply please email email@example.com and we will give you a list of our current needs
- Cash donations – we always need funds
- Food donations – if you are a restaurant and would like to sponsor a meal for our staff and volunteers please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- If you do have pet supplies you’ve already collected, please distribute them to our partner shelters and rescues who are still working hard and whose needs are still huge. We don’t want to forget about their needs.
There are thousands of families in need from all-too-common disasters like this.
Hopefully this reunion will bring a smile to the faces of those needing even a small ray of sunshine through the smoke.
Thank you again to all the emergency crews, firefighters, shelter workers and volunteers!