Heroic rescuers who dedicate their lives to saving “Fire Cats” after wildfires decimated Paradise in California, have traveled to Maui. Their unique skills and experience are helping save the day on the island.
After fires destroyed the once beautiful town of Lahaina, witnesses spotted gatherings of lost cats and other animals that survived the flames. As many as 3,000 animals were lost, and the Maui Humane Society (MHS) has joined local and international groups to help them. They’ve recruited some excellent help!
“Here is a rare sighting of two different species of cat rescuers together: Shannon Jay and Joy Smith of FieldHaven Feline Center. They landed in Maui this morning and went right to work. (screenshot from the film of them at FieldHaven’s Transfer Station in Paradise after the Camp Fire),” shared Fire Cats Director Katharine Parsons.
Retired National Park Service Officer Jay and Smith, featured in “The Fire Cats” documentary, are now working to “save something small” on Maui. Jay has been deployed to help the Maui Humane Society’s efforts and brings his unique experience and skills as an advisor.
“There remain many firecats in that burn zone. My focus will be to help MHS with best techniques and tactics to locate and rescue the injured and compromised felines, organize feeding stations and provide some training to local folks,” he shared on Facebook.
Meanwhile, the MHS reached out to FieldHaven with assistance in trapping groups of lost fire cats. Smith traveled to Maui with Jay to join the Neighborhood Cats trapping team on the island.
“We are so committed to this mission, just like we were with the Camp Fire,” Smith shared.
Saving Fire Cats in Maui
Right away, Smith, Jay, and other rescuers have encountered familiar obstacles like those during the Camp Fire rescues in California. Rescuers want to get in there and save the cats but have to wait for approval. In this case, they have reportedly waited almost a month for officials to grant them access to burn zones. While most ‘fire cats’ come out late at night, the rescuers say they have been restricted from late-night activities. This is the time they call “astronomical twilight” when frightened cats finally come out of hiding.
Shortly after arriving in Maui, the rescuers started putting out over 25 feeding stations for cats. Strategically placing and maintaining such feeding stations hopefully keep the cats nearby where they can be helped.
“This is the first step towards rescuing cats after a fire. Even in the midst of the destruction of their home space, cats will often stay nearby their homes. But if there is an extended time without food sources, they will begin to migrate away from the area in search of food,” Smith shared.
Next, the rescuers began trapping efforts, focusing on the cats most in need of help: triage for fire cats.
“Many of the easy cats that I refer to as ‘low hanging fruit,’ have been brought in, and now the daunting task is to find the ones that are under extreme duress,” shared Jay. “Fire cats in this survival mode can be very challenging to rescue as they are often on the move and hyper-vigilant. They are cagey, skittish, and will comport themselves as if anything and everything is a threat, even their own humans! I’ve witnessed this dramatic behavior change many hundreds of times.”
As with the Camp Fire rescues, Jay uses thermal scopes to see the cats late at night. The resulting images are surreal as the “scared-out-of-their-mind cats” emerge from their hiding places. Hundreds of cats, affectionally called fire monkeys, are gathering in the darkness.
“Find a more stunning backdrop during a fire cat rescue, I dare you,” he shared.
Filming with a thermal scope reveals surreal scenes of fire cat gatherings, their glowing eyes lighting up the darkness.
“Large pile of fire monkeys at a colony…they are all in good shape…every shape, size and color represented(50ish on site)”
The Tiniest Fire Cat Rescue
While observing a colony of cats, Jay spotted a tiny kitten on a camera. Somehow, he had survived the fires but wouldn’t make it without immediate help. Jay arrived at dusk hoping to catch the little guy. But he was so scared that he ran off, only to return two hours later and happily finally go in the trap.
“…He ate some pieces of fried chicken I had sprinkled at the entrance of the trap and just inside. At 9:37 PM he gathered his courage and entered. Held my breath as I touched off the remote trigger and it was over just like that. A gigantic tidal wave of relief washed over me that his time here in this awful place was at an end…Mahalo. I present to you the tiniest fire monkey I have ever rescued in a burn zone…right at the heart of the firestorm. We estimate him to be about seven weeks. When the fire tore through his home, this living miracle on earth was a mere three weeks new to this world. Chew on that for a minute,” Jay shared.
“Minutes after his rescue…bewildered, confused and scared to death. That he survived this monster at 3 weeks is inexplicable.”
“I don’t understand…yet Mahalo,” Jay posted.
Now this little guy is safe and sound and has nothing more to fear, but hundreds if not thousands of other cats still need help.
The Fire Cats – Save Something Small is available streaming, and proceeds support Neighborhood Cats’ Maui Wildfire Relief Fund. You can also help Joy Smith and the FieldHaven Feline Center’s efforts here.
To help the Maui Humane Society, find out more on their website.
Here is a trailer of the critically acclaimed documentary below from Ravenshoe Media: