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Animals rescued from Slave Lake Fires

By Dr. Andrew Jones

Hello fellow readers.

Many of you may not be aware of a devastating Wildfire that happened last Sunday in a Canadian town called Slave Lake.

Flames continued to flicker into the nighttime skies above Slave Lake after a devastating, fast moving wildfire caught community officials off guard.

The damage is catastrophic. Hundreds of homes, churches and businesses in the northern Alberta town have been destroyed. So too has the town hall and radio station. The power’s out, cellphone service has been spotty, and 7,000 residents have been forced to flee through a single road, the only highway open as fires rage on all sides.

Fire crews had little control – they had managed to save the south part of the town, but remained at the mercy of strong winds, gusting up to 100 kilometres an hour.

“It’s extremely devastating, our loss. It’s difficult to articulate,” Slave Lake Mayor Karina Pillay-Kinnee said late Sunday, adding: “A lot of things we’re battling now.”

In total it has been estimated that 40% of the town has been burned down.

What about the pets?

When Slave Lake resident Sara Toner fled her home Sunday night she had only enough time to grab two things: her partner Darren and their one-year old daughter Olivia.

“We were running. There was fire in the backyard, and the truck wouldn’t start,” described Toner with wide, tear-filled eyes. “We didn’t have time to even think about my cat.”

Toner was one of the first Slave Lake residents to be reunited with her pet, a calico cat named Buttons, at the makeshift animal-refugee camp outside the Edmonton Expo Centre Wednesday.

“She’s a little burned and singed, so we’re going to take her to the vet,” she said. “We’ve got two other cats out there somewhere, so we have hope now that someone will find them.”

The first batch of animals rescued from the fire-ravaged town, about 40 cats, dogs, birds and even a bearded dragon, were shaken and tired but relatively unscathed, said Edmonton Humane Society spokesperson Shawna Randolph.

The first wave of reunions began early Wednesday morning and continued throughout the day.

“This has been such a rewarding, joyful day. It’s fantastic to see these families, who have lost everything, be reunited with their pets,” said Randolph.

Like Toner, Slave Lake resident Sweetgrass Hoof, 19, was forced to flee her home without her cat, Max.

She spent the next two nights sleeping fitfully, desperately wishing she had left water or food for the animal.

“We didn’t have enough time to pack, we didn’t have any time to put out food and water for him, it was horrible,” said Hoof through a flood of tears.

Soon the Slave Lake evacuee was grinning from ear to ear, as rescue workers handed her Max, uninjured and relatively calm inside his kennel.

“I’m so, so glad they saved him, I can’t thank them enough,” she said.

In the wake of the wildfires that devastated the small town, the Edmonton Humane Society’s animal rescue team has rounded up more than 100 animals, 40 of those found wandering through the charred streets or trapped inside their owner’s homes.

According to officials, it’s very common for pet owners to be blind-sided by a disaster. But Randolph stresses the importance of a pet-emergency plan.

“People need to be more prepared. If they have an emergency kit, and an extra carrier, they can just put the animal in, grab it and go,” she said.

Thanks to heroic efforts by officials, many of the rescued animals have already been identified.

So far no animal fatalities have been reported and Toner’s cat Buttons was the only animal injured, with just minor burns.

Any evacuees who would like to leave information about lost pets up in Slave Lake is asked to call the dispatch phone number at 780-491-3850.


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Topics: Cat Care, Cat Health, Dog Care, Dog Health, Pet Care, Pet health | 5 Comments »

5 Responses to “Animals rescued from Slave Lake Fires”

  1. Avatar Gale Says:
    May 20th, 2011 at 7:56 am

    The only way I would go anywhere if forced to evacuate is WITH my dogs and cat. They are like children to me, and it is inhumane to leave them behind. I would also put their food and medication in the car. If you keep everything organized, it’s easy to pick up and go.

  2. Avatar Diane Says:
    May 20th, 2011 at 8:09 am

    I too could not fathom leaving my dog…but of course he goes everywhere with me and I already keep food in the car for him as well as water and blankets (as well as fleece body suits for him if it’s cold – I just always have them). People should realize we are living in very tumultuous times EVERYONE should have a plan for evacuation. It is happening all over the world so people do need to wake up. How many times must we see that people one day are doing fine and the next minute everything is gone and devastated. How many times must we read stories about stranded pets as well and not wake up to this. Parents should have a plan for the family and the children to know if something happens where to try and meet, kids should always carry some spare energy bars and clothing in their backpacks. Every family should have a plan for the home in case of emergency and practice evacuating. Absolutely every body should have a “bug out” bag. That’s a bag that has the main essentials in case you are in a situation where you have to flee! Please people wake up, learn from the MANY sad examples that have already taken place -HAVE A PLAN FOR YOUR FAMILY AND THAT SHOULD INCLUDE YOUR PETS! Please do not think it can’t or won’t happen to you.

  3. Avatar Marilyn Says:
    May 20th, 2011 at 8:12 am

    I can’t imagine saying there was no time to get my cat. My dogs would be the FIRST things on my list and I wouldn’t go without them. However, I’ve never been through a disaster like that, so it’s not fair to judge. My heart goes out to the people and animals of Slave Lake.

  4. Avatar sage Says:
    May 20th, 2011 at 8:23 pm

    I think it can be tougher with cats than dogs, especially out in the country. Most cats are outside much of the time and will run and hide when something seems disturbing in their environment.
    My cat does not care much to go outside, I have a carrying cage, of course I would always do my best in an emergency to save her.

    But what if I had to face being surrounded by forest fire, my backyard is on fire and my cat was off somewhere and wouldn’t answer my calls?

    Dogs are much easier, I think, to save. I think it might be worth considering a cats nature and the circumstance before we judge these people too harshly.

  5. Avatar Constance Says:
    May 21st, 2011 at 7:01 am

    The people of Slave Lake really had no chance. The tinder dry conditions coupled with the extreme gusts of wind all weekend throughout Alberta really created the perfect storm. The water Bombers were unable to take off and 70 plus km/hr winds whipping around we are so lucky that there was not a massive loss of life associated with this situation. The residents there were told that they were “safe” one minute, and the next they had to go. I for one do have an emergency plan for all of our animals, but this being said in the middle of a situation like this and given the short amount of time I do not know if our plans would even be able to be implemented. One does not know, and hopefully never will know how to react in a similar situation. We hear of Tornado/flood etc victims all of the time and our hearts go out to these people, we celebrate their safety, what makes this situation different? Given the absolute devastation that this community has faced it is a miracle that so many pets have been found thus far, I only hope that those of you with whom are uppity will never have to face an experience such as this for this community and its people will never be the same. I hope that many more pets will be found and reunited with their owners because about now these poor people need all of the joy that they can get.


Dr. Andrew Jones, DVM