Months after Calif. wildfire, pets, owners reunited
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.