May 13th, 2009
Submitted by Janell Matthies, UAN Emergency Services Manager
As I’m getting ready to demobilize this morning, I’m trying to come to terms with all of the animals I got to know, the wonderful shelter staff and residents of Santa Barbara, and all the memories from the last few days.
On the first night, when the front lobby was jam-packed with people and animals, a paramedic walked in. He went to the front desk and asked if he could cut in front of the line as his patient in the ambulance would not agree to go to the hospital unless she was sure her cat was well taken care of. She had been in a mandatory evacuation zone but refused to evacuate and leave her cat. Her caretaker finally decided to call 911 when she started having difficulty breathing because of the heavy smoke. Luckily, communications during this disaster were extraordinary and when the ambulance arrived, they were able to advise the patient of the Santa Barbara Humane Society’s ability to care for the evacuated animals. She agreed to go to the hospital only with the condition that they would stop by the shelter on the way and drop off her cat. Those in lines eagerly agreed to let the paramedics go first so they could continue their transport to the hospital.
So much has happened since that first night. The activity, the emotions, the exhaustion and the compassion have taken their toll on all of us. We’re walking a little slower, and making more groaning sounds as we sit down and get up. Finally watching the goofy basset hounds happily trot away with their tails wagging in perfect synchronicity was a fitting end to our deployment.
But it’s not over yet! I just received word from the shelter director that the EOC called requesting all personnel to stand by. Winds of up to 70 mph are expected to start tonight and many of the voluntary evacuations areas are expected to upgrade to mandatory evacuation areas later this afternoon. The fire is at 80 percent containment however with the predicted high winds headed right into the valleys that have multiple animal sanctuaries, there is a good chance we will still be urgently needed. After hearing the news I debated crying or banging my head against the wall. After considering my options I came to the conclusion that no matter what I did, the situation would not change, so I did the only thing I could…laugh.