The wildfires in Northern California have killed at least 41 people, burned 213,000 acres and destroyed more than 5,700 structures. But amidst the destruction, there are glimmers of joy as more and more families are reuniting with pets they thought were lost forever.
Many families only had minutes to get out of their homes, woken from their sleep by smoke pouring in their house or frantic knocks at the doors. They had no warning, no time to prepare as the flames blazed out of control.
Families fleeing the flames tried their best to take their pets with them to safety. But some families with cats couldn't find their frightened pets, or like Crystal the cat, escaped their carrier and ran off in fear.
“It’s harder to find cats in that kind of stressful situation,” Karen Blount, a veterinarian at Windsor Animal Hospital in Santa Rosa reports. “More often than not, they bolt.” Luckily for Crystal, she was found safe and sound and reunited quickly with her mom thanks to her microchip.
But then they heard a tiny mew coming from under the truck - and there was Ruthie Rosemary, singed whiskers and covered in ash, but otherwise unharmed.
Jennifer Trabucco told HuffPost that she and her husband noticed smoke pouring into their Santa Rosa home at around 1:30 a.m. on Oct. 9. “We only had about seven minutes to get out of our house,” she said.
While her husband gathered their three children and dog, Trabucco found and scooped up their two cats, Jake and Luke, in her arms. “Right as I got outside, [the cats] kind of panicked,” she said. “Luke squirmed out of my arms and I was screaming ‘Oh my God, no!’”
The two cats bolted in different directions — Jake fled into the house while Luke disappeared into the smoke-filled night. Trabucco ran back in and got Jake, but with flames bearing down and children and other pets in tow, she had to make the heartbreaking decision not to search for Luke.
“It was so smoky that my husband lost sight of our road,” she said. “My three kids [were] in the backseat, and they were crying because our cat got left behind. I was crying.”
But luckily, Luke’s story has a happy ending. A few days later, the distraught family got a call from Sonoma Humane Society. Luke was injured and had suffered burns to all four paws, but he alive. His microchip — a tiny implanted device that allows vets and shelters obtain an owner’s contact information — helped rescue workers find Luke's family.
From the evacuations of Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma to the Tubb Fires, these amazing reunion stories show how important it is to get your pets microchipped.
And more importantly – if your pet is already microchipped, make sure to update the contact information in case of emergency. For more information on microchipping your animal, contact your local vet or check out this helpful article on Petfinder.
If you have lost or found a pet within Sonoma County, you can use a centralized online database that is shared between all shelters and rescue groups within the county.
If you want to help in any way you can, the Sacramento Bee has a list of other organizations to help both humans and animals in need of donations and volunteers in the wake of the fires.