By Zainab Akande
"On Saturday, Wildlife Waystation - a wildlife sanctuary that's home to tigers, lions, bears, primates, horses and other animals - was in trouble.
This past weekend saw the start of a massive wildfire in parts of California that has since been dubbed the "Sand Fire." The ongoing fires, which started on Friday afternoon in the Sand Canyon region, have already taken more than 33,000 acres of land - but there was no way Waystation would allow the flames to take its rescued residents as well.
"The Santa Clarita Sand Fire is rapidly approaching Wildlife Waystation," the sanctuary wrote in a Facebook post on Saturday. "We are currently in the process of evacuating our over 400 animals."
Immediately, people began to comment, asking how they could help the sanctuary with its evacuations, despite the danger of working at a facility positioned directly in the line of fire.
"Is there a staging area, so as not to impede EMS vehicles onsite?" one comment on the post read. "Is there a primary contact people can check in with?"
In a second post, the sanctuary asked for flatbed trailers, enclosed trucks and an air-conditioned warehouse to temporarily house the animals. Vet staff support was requested as well. "We are still evacuating animals," the post read. "We are getting the animals to safety as quickly as possible. There is currently a lot of smoke and the fire is still 1/2 mile away."
But even as two thirds of the sanctuary found itself surrounded by fire, with ashes falling from the sky, people still came and offered their support - knowing that, otherwise, the animals would have been doomed. So many people showed up that the evacuation effort had even more support than it needed, Jerry Brown, Wildlife Waystation spokesman, told the Los Angeles Daily News.
"There was a tremendous turnout, a tremendous number of people coming up with trucks, trailers and animal carriers," Brown said. Small animals and birds were moved first, due to their heightened sensitivity to smoke inhalation. Of course, the transport of the larger predators was handled by the experts.
"People who didn't know each other at all came together to help," Sarah Stone, a volunteer, wrote on Facebook. "Everyone was afraid (flames, smoke, it was scary out there) and sweating and tense, but so many people chipped in because help was needed. Today was an example of lots of really good-hearted people working together."
SarahStoneArt Instagram: "Angry ocelot getting loaded into trucks."
By Saturday night, both Waystation staffers and volunteers were able to move more than 70 percent of the animals to other sanctuaries.
Firefighters worked hard at the scene to contain the flames surrounding the sanctuary, and a change in wind direction aided the efforts - finally leaving the remaining animals at the compound safe and sound.
SarahStoneArt Instagram: "Tortoise evac wildlife waystation"
"The teamwork was phenomenal," Jess Pelaez, who volunteered to help the evacuation effort, told 89.3 KPCC. "The animals were everyone's first priority and it showed in every way."
A staffer at Waystation told The Dodo she anticipates the animals will be able to return to the sanctuary within the next few days or so, once the fires completely die down.
SarahStoneArt Instagram: "2 ocelots 2 tigers, figuring out how to keep them separate using plywood."
Want to help the Wildlife Waystation continue doing good work for animals in need? Click here to learn about ways you can show your support."
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