(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

B.C. BUDGET: Surplus $374 million after bailouts of BC Hydro, ICBC

Growth projected stronger in 2020, Finance Minister Carole James says

Snow is weather story of the day for Cariboo Chilcotin Tuesday

Ten centimetres is expected by Wednesday morning

2017 wildfires spark creation of Riske Creek volunteer fire dept.

McLeese Lake and West Fraser volunteer fire departments have already donated safety clothing and gear

VIDEO: 8 things you need to know about the 2019 B.C. budget

Surplus of $247 million with spending on children, affordability and infrastructure

Steelhead LNG stops work on Kwispaa LNG project near Bamfield

Huu-ay-aht First Nations ‘deeply disappointed; Steelhead says funding is the problem

‘Bullet missed me by an inch’: Man recounts friend’s killing at Kamloops hotel

Penticton man witnessed Summerland resident Rex Gill’s murder in Kamloops

B.C. BUDGET: Income assistance raise still leaves many below poverty line

$50 per month increase included in funding for poverty and homelessness reduction

B.C. BUDGET: Indigenous communities promised billions from gambling

Extended family caregiver pay up 75 per cent to keep kids with relatives

B.C. BUDGET: New benefit increases family tax credits up to 96 per cent

BC Child Opportunity Benefit part of province’s efforts to reduce child poverty

B.C. BUDGET: Carbon tax boosts low-income credits, electric vehicle subsidies

Homeowners can get up to $14,000 for heating, insulation upgrades

B.C. man survives heart attack thanks to Facebook

A Princeton man suffered a heart attack while at an isolated property with no cell service

B.C. man sues Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party over trademark

Satinder Dhillon filed application for trademark same day Maxime Bernier announced the new party

Most Read