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Some Fire Evacuees Refused To Be Separated From Their Pets

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The Carr Fire in California has burned more than a hundred-thousand acres. It has destroyed thousands of homes. Several people have died. Tens of thousands of residents have been evacuated. Last week, those evacuations were made more complicated. Some people refused to be separated from their pets when taking shelter. April Ehrlich from member station Jefferson Public Radio reports from Redding, Calif.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOGS BARKING)

APRIL EHRLICH, BYLINE: I met Amy Favian (ph) outside a Red Cross shelter at Shasta College. She was sitting on a cot with her two small dogs. Favian wanted to sleep inside the air-conditioned shelter, but...

AMY FAVIAN: They don't allow you with pets in there so I had to sleep with them in their crates on the ground, and I slept in the passenger seat in my car. And, actually, I didn't really sleep.

EHRLICH: Others were doing the same, braving triple-digit temperatures and thick smoke to sleep next to their cats and dogs. People could have dropped off their pets at a temporary animal shelter, but many didn't want to.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOGS BARKING)

EHRLICH: So eventually, volunteers cleared out a warehouse at the Shasta College farm and hauled in a large air conditioner so people could sleep next to their pets. A local veterinary clinic volunteered its staff. Dr. Kara Tennant of Care Animal Hospital says she wasn't surprised that people didn't want to leave their pets.

KARA TENNANT: They used to just mainly stay outside, you know, but now they're in the house. They're in our beds. They're with our kids. They're - you know, they're family.

EHRLICH: Robert Miller (ph) tried to wrangle his cat, Eli, as he and his family were evacuating their home. He says he doesn't even like Eli very much. He meows a lot. He gets in your face. He's kind of annoying. But his daughter, Jessie (ph), loves Eli, and he loves Jessie. Miller tried to keep a handle on Eli as they were evacuating, but the cat just slipped through his arms.

ROBERT MILLER: I told Jessie, he doesn't want to get caught. He won't get caught. And I feel - it's the most - it's the most important thing to her. And I tried to get back to get him. They wouldn't let me in.

EHRLICH: Even pets who were able to stick with their people face an uncertain future. The Carr Fire destroyed more than 1,000 homes. People are looking for apartments and hotels to stay in for now, and not all of them take pets. For NPR News, I'm April Ehrlich in Redding. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Corrected: August 2, 2018 at 12:00 AM EDT
In the original introduction to this report, we mistakenly said the Carr Fire has spread over more than 100,000 square miles. In fact, it has burned across 100,000 acres, or about 156 square miles.