Utah wildfire evacuees of the furry, four-legged kind
Thousands of desperate homeowners in Saratoga Springs and Eagle Mountain weren't the only ones who had to escape the Dump Fire as it was racing toward them.
Some of the towns' tiniest residents also had to seek shelter.
Law enforcement officials and volunteers had to evacuate more than 175 dogs, cats, pigs, cows, horses, llamas, emus, birds and other animals as the fire threatened an animal rescue facility on Friday.
The fire came within about two miles of the Friends in Need Animal Rescue and Sanctuary on the east side of Eagle Mountain, forcing co-owner Kim O'Donnell and his wife to start shipping the animals to the Eagle Mountain rodeo grounds about five miles away. The city had offered the rodeo grounds to O'Donnell as a temporary shelter.
"The fire came down the hill and about a half mile away from our property," O'Donnell said. "It was right there in our backyard. If the wind had changed, it would have been on top of us in a heartbeat."
O'Donnell and his wife "started rounding up the troops" Friday morning when they noticed the fire was on their side of the hill overlooking the sanctuary on North Lake Mountain Road. Soon, volunteers brought horse trailers, pickups and crates to help the O'Donnells load up their animals.
"It was a real good general outpouring," O'Donnell said Saturday. "We owe them so much for their help, but we had to play it safe."
Nearly all of the animals, including a Patagonian cavy (a large rodent), were successfully transferred to the grounds. Only a water buffalo, which was too big, and four yaks had to stay. All were safe Saturday morning.
The O'Donnells were spending Saturday returning the animals to the sanctuary as the fire danger subsided. "My wife is at the rodeo grounds to give them water and load up the birds first and bring them back," he said. "It's going to be another crazy, hectic day."
As the fire started charging toward homes Friday, several area animal shelters began tweeting offers to care for evacuees' pets. More than 40 pets were initially sent to an American Fork animal shelter. Davis County Animal Control also volunteered its animal shelter trailer. Four dogs and a cat were housed in a trailer at Westlake High School football field in Saratoga Springs.
"People want to make sure their pets are taken care of," said Mike Morgan, director of the South Utah Valley Animal Shelter, who was overseeing the trailer. "It makes evacuation so much easier when they know law enforcement can take care of their pets. People are passionate for them. It's their babies."