(Northwest Forest Fire Support Network)

‘The magnitude is unfathomable’: B.C. animal lover helps livestock flee wildfires

More than 1,200 animals have been evacuated so far

As hundreds of wildfires burn around B.C. and people scramble to get away, Deanna Bell was thinking about the animals.

Bell, who is a registered massage therapist up in Houston, was talking with one of her clients about all the wild animals fleeing the fires.

“The magnitude has been unfathomable. There’s the three large fires that are circling everybody,” she told Black Press Media by phone Sunday.

“I thought, that’s great that all the wildlife can get away but what about everything that’s behind a fence? All the horse, all the cows… I’m an animal lover.”

So Bell set out to see what she could do to help.

Turns out, quite a bit.

She called the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako who told her that anyone with farm status was already able to apply for help.

But that left behind a lot of people.

“There’s two qualifications: you either have farm status or you’re considered a hobbyist,” said Bell.

“Around the south side of Burns Lake, everybody has three chickens, four dogs, a pig, a goat and an alpaca.”

Evacuated horses enjoy some peace and quiet. (Northwest Forest Fires Support Network)

It’s that random assortment of animals that Bell, along with her mother Jocelyn, has set out to help.

At first, it seemed almost too much to handle

“So as the days continued and we began coordinating, it became a monster,” said Bell ruefully.

“I have 30 pages of handwritten notes and emails and text messages.”

So on the advice of a friend, she set up the Northwest Forest Fire Support Network page on Facebook and a matching GoFundMe that was only $180 short of its $10,000 goal on Sunday afternoon.

For locals, there is a donation account set up at the Bulkley Valley Credit Union.

“So instead of having a paper copy, I was getting everyone on my list to post on there,” Bell said.

“It wasn’t just me being the middleman. The public had access.”

READ MORE: B.C. residents defy evacuation orders as wildfires burn

So far, between Bell handling the larger animals and Jason Jubinville, who is handling the smaller ones, they’ve relocated 1,200 animals.

In total, Bell thinks that there’s around 9,000 cows, sheep, goats and pigs on hobby farms in evacuation alert areas.

Although it’s a gargantuan task, Bell said the community has stepped up to help.

“One lady messages me and says ‘I don’t have money, I don’t have a place for animals but I’m going to go to all my neighbours and collect all their fruit,” said Bell.

“So she has a truckload of apples for us.”

Other neighbours have taken everything from toiletries to water to clothing over to help evacuees and firefighters.

“I know of a load that came from Saskatchewan and Co-op paid for all their fuel to come over,” said Bell.

“There’s a load that came out of Terrace… a load arrive from Chilliwack yesterday that had everything. It had hoses and pumps and all the supplies that you could think of.”

But although evacuating animals is going well, Bell said they’re already worried for winter.

“Holy crap, we’re going to need a ton of hay,” said Bell.

“I’ve got four liner-loads of hay coming in between now and Wednesday.”

Four hay bales ready for eating by the evacuated animals. (Jason Jubinville/Northwest Forest Fires Support Network)

But hay is expensive. The $10,000 GoFundMe goal will only pay for two liner-loads of hay.

“So, $5,444 is the math I have calculated is the math to get 42 bales,” said Bell.

“It’s super expensive but if everybody just threw in $20…”


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Risk of ‘deadly avalanches’ leads to warning for B.C.’s south coast

Weak layer of snow on Vancouver Island, Lower Mainland could trigger an avalanche

Another snowfall warning for Lower Mainland

Another 5-10 cm expected for Metro Vancouver, Fraser Valley and Sunshine Coast

Saskia and Darrel kick off spring tour with Chilliwack concert

Stories of the Great Plains delivered in Gaelic, French and more

Harrison to participate in inter-municipal business licence program

Construction companies and related businesses will be able to work across the Fraser Valley in 2020

RCMP officer reaching out to youth about intimate partner violence

Chilliwack officer and friends of Maple Batalia team up to encourage bystanders to speak up

Sell regulated heroin to curb B.C.’s overdose problem: report

B.C. Centre on Substance Use points to organized crime and money-laundering as contributing factors

B.C. legislature moving suspended staff controversy to outside review

Whale watching, Seattle Mariners trips billed as emergency preparedness

Two boys saved after falling through ice in Coquitlam

RCMP say a Good Samaritan pulled the kids to safety

More people signing up for compulsory vaccines

Maple Ridge mom says public tired of hearing about measles

UPDATE: Man charged in stabbing of woman, off-duty cop outside B.C. elementary school

Manoj George, 49, is facing two counts of aggravated assault and two counts of assault with a weapon after the incident on Wednesday, Feb. 20.

Why do zebras have stripes? Perhaps to dazzle away flies

Researchers from University of Bristol look into why zebras have stripes

Poll: More voters believe Canada doing worse under Trudeau government

22 per cent believed the country is doing better and 27 per cent said things are the same

HBC shuttering Home Outfitters across Canada

North America’s oldest retailer is revamping its various stores to improve profitability

BC SPCA investigates Okanagan woman with prior animal abuse convictions

BC SPCA is investigating a property near Vernon

Most Read