Many Pet Hospitals Escape SoCal Fires

Despite the tremendous amount of home loss, veterinary hospitals have managed to escape the ravages of the wildfires.

Santiago Canyon up in smoke as the wildfire continues in southern California

Although 11 large wildfires are still burning across Southern California, the Santa Ana wind event is over, making it easier for firefighters to contain them, according to the National Interagency Coordination Center, a group that coordinates the mobilization of resources for wild land fire and other incidents throughout the U.S.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger reported Wednesday that the fires have destroyed about 1,600 structures—including more than 1,400 homes—but it appears that many veterinary hospitals escaped destruction.

Rancho Santa Fe Veterinary Hospital in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., faced the massive Witch Creek fire head on.

"There was a very real threat of our hospital burning down," says hospital director Dave Oei. "The fire line was drawn right at our intersection and our hospital survived."

Oei woke early Monday morning to smells of smoke in the air.  "I went online to discover a mandatory evacuation order for our community," Oei says. "At the clinic we triaged the hospital for what we needed to save. I backed-up our critical [computer] systems, we cancelled appointments, forward calls to my cell, and the nurses created a mash unit in large plastic bins in case we needed to operate out of mobile unit if the hospital burned." Fortunately for the Rancho Santa Fe veterinary team, it didn't and the clinic is up and running.

Banfield reports that its team in the greater San Diego area are all accounted for. Some Banfield pet hospitals are closed temporarily because of thick smoke and ash in the air, but the hospitals are currently safe from immediate paths of the fires, a spokesman said.

"The fire line was drawn right at our intersection and our hospital survived."

Should more Banfield hospitals have to close, answering machines will indicate area emergency pet hospitals where clients can seek immediate assistance.

VCA Animal Hospitals, which is offering boarding assistance at more than 40 of its Southern California locations, hasn’t reported any major damages either.

Skye Engles, the lead receptionist at VCA North Coast Animal Hospital in Encinitas, Calif., says she is grateful. Although some of her colleagues have had to evacuate their homes, so far everyone is safe and their homes are intact.

The pet hospital is at boarding capacity, but is coordinating with other veterinary ER facilities in the area to ensure patients have a safe place to stay.


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