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Maple Ridge vet volunteers to help animal fire victims

Walton treats animals injured in blaze at Urban Safari in Surrey
Dr. Adrian Walton and staff, with Urban Safari Rescue Society founder Gary Oliver, assess a Savannah monitor that survived the fire. Walton says he expects it to make a full recovery. (Urban Safari Rescue Society/Special to The News)

On the way in to treat animals after a devastating fire at Surrey’s Urban Safari Rescue Society, the Maple Ridge veterinarian warned his staff to expect the worst.

Dr. Adrian Walton, after volunteering his time to see many reptiles and other animals on Monday night, left somewhat relieved and definitely impressed by the work of volunteers who washed and nursed the survivors.

He treated 15-20 of the animals that were the worst off, such as putting them on pain control and antibiotics. He’s optimistic his patients are going to make it.

The devastating fire on Saturday morning killed some 60 animals – guinea pigs, frogs, geckos, birds, and more – and has closed the business. It was caused by a power surge, despite a surge protector, that damaged a heating unit in the snake tank. The blaze did a lot of damage to the front of the building. It filled the animal rescue facility on 176th Street in Surrey with thick smoke.

“The good news is, the ones who survived are in pretty good shape,” said Walton. “For the extent of damage, the animals that have survived are doing remarkably well.”

Now staff and volunteers will watch them for symptoms, particularly breathing problems, which could still develop over the coming days. Some will have damaged lungs.

READ ALSO: Fire kills ‘many’ animals at Urban Safari Rescue Society Saturday morning in South Surrey

He explained reptiles are uniquely equipped by nature to survive a smokey fire that would kill other animals. A mammal will run from a fire, but a reptile’s instinct, and best chance, is to “hunker down and try to survive it.” Their bodies go into a torpor state of reduced metabolic activity, and a slowed respiratory rate helps limit the damage from smoke inhalation.

“They can survive fires where a mammal won’t,” Walton said.

The vet also diagnosed a society that is obviously determined to see its animal wards recover. The animals were cleaned off, and black ash washed out of their mouths so they didn’t breathe in more. He saw volunteers whose clothes and faces were covered in marks of black soot.

“They are doing everything in their power to make sure their animals recover, and I commend them for the time and effort they’re putting into it,” he said.

Walton works with numerous non-profits and rescue associations, and was personally gutted by the fire.

“They’re going to be facing a lot of financial strain over the next while, as they rebuild. Please consider a donation to their gofundme,” requested Walton.

The online fundraiser has so far raised approximately $30,000 to help the society recover from the blaze.

– With files from Tricia Weel, Black Press

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Neil Corbett

About the Author: Neil Corbett

I have been a journalist for more than 30 years, the past decade with the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News.
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