Months af­ter Calif. wild­fire, pets, own­ers re­united

The Progress-Index Weekend - - OBITUARIES - By Amanda Lee My­ers

Em­bers fall­ing on their heads, Ve­nesa Rhodes and her hus­band had sec­onds to rush their two beloved cats into their SUV be­fore a wild­fire last sum­mer would over­take them all.

One cat got in. But the other, named Bella, bolted and dis­ap­peared as the blaze bore down. The cou­ple had no choice but to flee, and their home and much of the neigh­bor­hood in Red­ding, Cal­i­for­nia, soon was re­duced to ash.

Rhodes and her hus­band, Stephen Cobb, pre­sumed Bella was dead. Dev­as­tated by their losses, they moved 1,800 miles (2,900 kilo­me­ters) to Rhodes' home­town of An­chor­age, Alaska, to start over.

Nearly six weeks later, they got a call that left them gob­s­macked: Bella was alive. Vol­un­teers had put out a feed­ing sta­tion at Rhodes' burned-out prop­erty, staked it out af­ter spot­ting the cat, and then trapped her.

“I started bawl­ing,” Rhodes said from An­chor­age, where Bella was curled up in a cor­ner sleep­ing. “We were shocked. We were just so over­joyed and just hop­ing she was OK.” Rhodes and Cobb are among dozens of peo­ple who lost their homes in the deadly Carr Fire but had their lives bright­ened weeks or months later when their pets were found.

A net­work of about 35 vol­un­teers — called Carr Fire Pet Res­cue and Re­u­ni­fi­ca­tion — is re­spon­si­ble for many of the happy end­ings, which con­tinue more than two months af­ter fire­fight­ers ex­tin­guished the blaze, which de­stroyed more than 1,000 homes and killed six peo­ple. The group formed with the help of an­other vol­un­teer an­i­mal group born out of the dev­as­tat­ing Tubbs Fire, which killed at least 22 peo­ple and de­stroyed thou­sands of homes last year in wine coun­try north of San Fran­cisco.

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