As flames from a dozen wildfires roared closer to tens of thousands of homes, barns and other buildings in Southern California, many are evacuating with dogs, cats, rats, snakes, horses, goats and other animals, to locations including parking lots and beaches.
Outside Qualcomm stadium in San Diego - where about 10,000 people are using the Chargers' home turf as a wildfire shelter - there are all sorts of animals in the parking lot with their owners, waiting out the crisis with access to food and water.
In Del Mar, the clubhouse at the 70-year-old racetrack is also being used as a shelter. Hundreds of people are watching television sets blaring reports from the fire lines and damaged neighborhoods, half hoping to see a glimpse of their homes - and half not - fearing what's left may be only a ruin. Others are dozing on cots, with their pets penned in nearby, in temporary fencing.
"We're going crazy trying to get back into our apartment just to see what kind of damage we've got," said Tim Harrington, who arrived at the track with his wife, son and their two pet rats. "Then we'll pick up the pieces from there."
The Early Show's resident veterinarian, Dr. Debbye Turner, took a look at how animals big and small caught up in the wildfires disaster are being helped -- and why they're better off than many who were affected by Hurricane Katrina. To see Turner's report,
Just outside the clubhouse, barns that usually house thoroughbred race horses sheltered a variety of large animals.
"I'd say spirits are pretty good. The biggest question is, 'When can we go back to our homes?' We have to tell them we have no idea. All we can tell them to do is tell them to watch those TVs," volunteer coordinator Beverly Ferree said.
Many large domesticated animals were evacuated to area beaches.
Therese Nerat, 63, of Ramona, Calif., made it to the beach at Mission Bay Park with seven of her 47 goats, who she credits with saving her ranch house - by eating the dry, fire-friendly brush which was the downfall of her neighbors.
"My neighbor was on TV and said there's only one house still standing in the area, and that's mine," Therese Nerat, 63, said from an evacuation center at the seaside Mission Bay Park as her goats whinnied in the background.
Nerat, who breeds goats and raises chickens, ducks and geese on her ranch, said she rushed out of her home Sunday when a fire raced across communities northeast of San Diego. The blaze has blackened about 164,000 acres and destroyed 500 homes.
"I ran out and started throwing goats in the car," she said. "I got seven out, and 40 are still out at the ranch. The rest of them are OK, thank goodness."
Neighbors have been stopping by to feed her animals, and firefighters trucked in water for them because flames melted pipes in the area, she said.
TeamSafe-T.org, an alliance of public and private groups which has put together lists of suggested items to keep on hand for emergencies and evacuations, includes in its advice a list for pet owners.
Here are some items they suggest to put in a Pet Grab'n Go Bag, to cut down on delays when it is time to flee with Fido and Fifi:
- Water and Bowls (non-spillable)
- Collar, leash and muzzle
- Treats, toy
- ID tag should always be on pet
- Extra name tag
- License number
- Name, address and phone number of veterinarian, animal control agency and shelters.
- People to contact to take care of the animal
- Vaccination and medical records, allergy or other special instructions
Wild animals are another problem. Authorities say the fires have sent frightened and injured animals racing from the forests into populated areas - where they can be a danger to people and pets.
The Los Angeles City Department of Animal Services is urging residents to stay away from displaced animals and allow them to move away on their own.
They also recommend, in areas that are not evacuated, that pets be kept indoors to avoid contact with wildlife and health problems caused by smoke in the air.