Many evacuees who fled the Boulder 2700 Fire and Finley Point area on Saturday evening and Sunday arrived at the Red Cross shelter at Linderman Elementary School in Polson with their pets.
Lynette Duford of Life Savers Animal Rescue (LSAR) had set up an animal rescue aid site early Sunday morning.
“When we got here almost all of the vehicles contained an animal,” said Duford.
Animals could not be allowed in the gymnasium, but people were reluctant to part with it to access the services offered inside.
“We set up a small camp on the lawn with crates. We were able to keep people’s pets while they came in and had a shower and a meal.
LSAR has an important connection with the community. The organization has been actively rescuing, welcoming and accommodating animals in Lake County for 17 years. With a rapid request for help on social media, donations and offers of homes for displaced animals and their families immediately poured in.
“The community has definitely met the needs,” said Duford. “All needs were met for all those people who showed up with their pets in their cars. We had leashes, collars, food and water dishes. We had cat trays and litter, and food for all the cats and dogs.
The rescue finally told its supporters that they had all the gifts they needed right now, but would return with them if more animals arrived.
The next need was to put people with their pets in a house somewhere, Duford said.
“A lot of people in the community have opened their homes to people and their pets.”
Mission Valley Animal Shelter also got involved, welcoming a stray dog from LSAR to open up a foster home space for fire rescue.
Some people stay in the shelter while their pets are housed in temporary foster homes.
“Others couldn’t be separated from their pets, which is understandable,” said Duford. “We were able to find enough homes to accommodate humans and their pets. ”
Some stay in a spare bedroom or basement, others in an RV, or are even just camped in a tent in a fenced yard so their dogs can run around freely.
“But they’re with their pets, that’s what matters most. It was really pretty amazing, ”she said.
“We got cattle and horses placed in the evacuation area,” Duford said.
All requests for assistance to cattle, horses and even goats could be met thanks to the pastures and water sources offered by the community.
Animal keeping facilities at Ronan and Polson Fairgrounds have also been made available, according to Lake County Fair Director Sjaan Vincent.
LSAR coordinated with the Red Cross so that all offers of assistance could be matched with requests, regardless of the organization contacted.
“There isn’t a single person who needed a placement who didn’t get it,” said Duford. “And as the firefighters fight their way through the burned area, we are available to take any live animals found,” Duford said.
Some animals required veterinary care and LSAR covered some of these expenses if necessary.
“Whenever we called a vet during this incident, they immediately let the animal in.”
Three moving rescue stories have received a lot of attention on social media. A black cat was pushed by flames to the edge of a cliff and jumped on a tree to safety. Finley Point firefighter Bryce Muench coaxed the cat in his arms, Duford said. Nicknamed “Astro the Fire Cat”, he was burned and suffered lung damage. He is being treated at the Southshore Veterinary, and his owners, who lost their home to the fire, were able to visit him.
A dog was stranded on a dock, unable to escape due to a shore fire. It was eventually rescued by a Lake County search and rescue boat, but its owners have yet to be identified. A second cat was found at Finley Point and taken to foster care.
LSAR has a permanent list of homes for the temporary placement of small animals and livestock, as well as homes where people can stay with their pets, Duford said.
Contact Life Savers Animal Rescue at the Red Cross Shelter at Linderman Elementary in person, call the main rescue number at 406-676-4200 or message them on Facebook.