To prevent any momentary stress, we will start this post by saying that everyone at the sanctuary is fine. All of the elephants, people, chickens, dogs, cats, goats, lambs, tapirs, ducks are well.
Yesterday, the sanctuary property was impacted by a significant fire (quick note- the fires here do not remotely compare in size and severity of those in California thankfully). There have been fires throughout the state for the past month, with a hotter dry season and rains that are delayed a little over a month. A few days ago, the firemen came to our property because of a fireline to North. It was slow-moving, typical of fires here, and they figured we had a few days of preparation before it might arrive on one of our borders. Unfortunately, one of our neighbors set a back burn to protect their own property, and it came down into ours. Due to high winds, this fire took off and began raging through the upper part of the sanctuary (the elephants are in the lower part.)
For those who have read our posts on this in the past, we have a set emergency plan for fires, and some of our dedicated supporters helped us purchase prevention and firefighting equipment. All of this was put to good use yesterday. As in our plan, all of the elephants were brought back towards the barn, into the three smaller yards. Mara, Rana, and Bambi were in yard 1, Maia in 2, and Lady in 3. Fire breaks were widened (just in case), our tractor ‘Rosie’ and the water tanker were moved to different locations throughout the day to wet down potential issues, and teams from the municipality and firemen worked with our phenomenal team to protect the elephants.
The fire was volatile, and everyone working to control it said they hadn’t seen a fire like this in their entire career. It quickly made its way up the back of the property and towards the house. Everyone fell back and had a newfound focus on protecting the other animals at the sanctuary, and they were amazing. We had to chuckle a little (yes, during these times, you have to find something to laugh/smile at) that Alma, our blind tapir, slept through almost everything. Sally and Georgie (the goats) and Milo (the sheep) seemed to enjoy tormenting their new ‘friends.’ It only took a few minutes to work its way through the border of the house, then headed down the hill.
Because of the slow down and direction of the winds, back burns were set to protect the elephant yards. The safest and most controllable place to set them was at the creek’s border, so across the creek in 4 & 5 was intentionally burned. Intentional burns were set on different sides of the yards, at varied times, when the conditions were right. The elephant yards are a little island in the middle of a blackened terrain. All of the while, the elephants remained calm, enjoying their extra goodies. At times they appeared to watch- Bambi would smell in the direction of the fire, Mara would put her ears out and look, but not in a stressed way. They did better than we would have thought, but they seem to love to show us to never underestimate them. Lady, at one point, did seem a little uncomfortable with the number of people around (this was while they were working near her yard), so Scott or myself stayed with her until the team left that area- just relaxing, feeding her some hay and fruit, and chatting about the world.
At 3:30 in the morning, we went to bed knowing that about 85% of the sanctuary had burned but that things were now quiet and everyone was safe. There are still plenty of big trees that went untouched, but the landscape has definitely changed. Thankfully, we already know that mother nature will do a phenomenal job of restoring the land to a healthier state. And….the forecast is for rain tomorrow.
Big thanks to everyone that help us make the sanctuary safe every year- just in case. Your gifts did not go unnoticed or unused. Many thanks to all of the guys (sorry, there were no women) who showed up determined to make sure not a single fuzzy hair on any of our elephants was harmed. And to our own team, who never fails to step up, no matter what the need. ❤️
We know people may have additional questions, but it’s the weekend, so our US staff is off, and we are oddly a little busy. We apologize ahead of time, since responding is always so important to us, but this is a bit of a special circumstance. Thank you.
video- this is taken during a high point in the fire, but you can see how relaxed they all were. we did not record Lady, those of you who follow us regularly know she is not generally a fan of the camera and this definitely didn’t seem like the time to be doing anything she might not be 100% comfortable with.