Wednesday, August 28, 2013

For animal shelter, a very close call

Evacuation of site west of Hailey took 1 hour


By TONY EVANS
Express Staff Writer

Wood River Animal Shelter staffers and volunteers, from left to right, Sandy Berk, Hannah Gove, Bridget Cimino and Robin Potts stand with shelter dogs on Friday between a kennel and land charred land by the Beaver Creek Fire. Photo by Willy Cook

    One day before the Beaver Creek Fire swept through Croy Canyon west of Hailey, destroying many square miles of land, 55 furry residents of the Animal Shelter of the Wood River Valley were whisked to safety.
    “Everything out here is scorched like a moonscape to our fence-line,” said shelter Executive Director Jo-Anne Dixon. “It was pretty heroic, the effort firefighters made to save the buildings.”
    The buildings were saved by the Ketchum Fire Strike Team led by Team Leader Mike Witthar, with support from the Eagle Fire Department.
    Dixon said the shelter devised an evacuation plan after the Castle Rock Fire seven years ago and practiced it a few days before a pre-evacuation notice was issued Friday afternoon, Aug. 16.
    “We didn’t wait for a mandatory evacuation notice,” said Dixon.
    She called volunteers and staff members for help and made sure there were enough crates to move 20 cats, 35 dogs and a few bunny rabbits.


It was pretty heroic, the effort fire fighters made to save the building.”
Dr. Jo-Anne Dixon
Shelter executive director


    “We had the place empty within an hour,” Dixon said.
    The no-kill shelter and Barkin’ Basement Thrift Store are staffed by 20 employees and supported by 50 volunteers.
    Many of them, including Dixon, live in areas that had received evacuation orders the same day the shelter’s residents were taken out of harm’s way.
    Most of the dogs were taken to Jay Gove’s Alpine Kennels south of Bellevue. The cat population was sent to a “cattery” set up in volunteer Jane Dettwiler’s garage in Hailey.
    Shelter staff members went twice each day to feed and water the animals and provide emotional support.
“A lot of our staff members were evacuated, but they needed to keep their jobs and keep working. Since they know the animals best, only they could provide consistency of care,” Dixon said.
Ten dogs were taken to an Idaho Humane Society shelter in Boise.
“They have adopted out most of them already, which is really nice,” Dixon said.
    The Animal Shelter’s administrative crew worked temporarily at an office near Broadford Road in Hailey, taking calls and helping reunite lost pets with owners.
    “We responded to numerous calls about lost dogs, some that had been frightened by helicopters, and others that fled temporary evacuation sites,” Dixon said.
    Rather than impounding animals, shelter staff posted pictures of missing animals on the KECH-FM radio station Facebook page.
    During the six days of evacuations in Hailey, a cat named Squirrel was evacuated with its owners only to be lost during the confusion. Another evacuated family found the cat and returned it to its owners, thanks to the shelter’s Dollars for Collars Program.
    “The Animal Shelter of the Wood River Valley partnered with the Wood River Valley students’ WOW generosity project this past school year to fund the Dollars for Collars program,” Dixon said.
    “With the help of the shelter’s onsite ID tag machine, this program ensures that every animal adopted from our shelter goes home with a microchip, a new collar and a pet ID tag,” she said.
    By Saturday afternoon the staff was back in full operation at the shelter in Croy Canyon.
Tony Evans: tevans@mtexpress.com




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