Community rallies for displaced Joe Rich pets

After a wildfire forced the evacuation of more than 1,000 people, their pets are being taken care of

“This is what community looks like,” said one of the volunteers at the room adjacent to the Emergency Support Services at Willow Park church, as she walked by with a bowl full of hay.

She was off to feed some bunnies in a room filled with kennels holding the pets from evacuees of the Joe Rich blaze.

The fire Thursday sent 1,100 residents from nearly 500 homes into the care of friends, family and emergency service workers. Many of these people were fleeing their homes with a pet and there are currently 32 creatures in the care of Animal Lifetime Emergency Response Team.

“As soon as a call goes out to our team and we go to the centre and set up,” said Natalie Mark, the president of ALERT. “Because of allergies and people’s fear of animals they can’t go into the evacuation centre.”

Related: Video: Joe Rich Fire erupts on roadside

Just after 3 p.m. yesterday, Mark and her team got the call to assist with evacuees.

“I came right away, some volunteers met me, and someone got a trailer with all our supplies.”

Their effort was augments buy the Four Paws Food Bank from Kamloops, which supplied kennels and pet food.

Dr. Moshe Oz, a veterinarian from West Kelowna, is also helping house some of the creatures that have been displaced.

While they now have 19 cats, five dogs 8 bunnies and two rabbits in their care, there’s an expectation that the number will balloon as the day wears on.

The ALERT team is also on standby, awaiting news on whether there will be further evacuations of pets and larger animals that were left behind for various reasons when the evacuation order came down.

Right now, said Mark, it’s too unsafe to try and get anything out, but they’re ready.

Related: Smoke blankets Central Okanagan, air quality plummets