Animal sanctuary evacuates as wine country fires continue

The goats from Rescue Ranch in Vacaville explore their temporary home at the Animal Place sanctuary in Grass Valley.
The goats from Rescue Ranch in Vacaville explore their temporary home at the Animal Place sanctuary in Grass Valley. Courtesy of

As the Atlas Fire crept within five miles of the Rescue Ranch animal adoption center Wednesday in Vacaville, manager Jan Galeazzi watched ash rain down as she and two staffers fed 1,000 chickens plus pigs, ducks, goats, pigeons and sheep.

Galeazzi knew it was time to execute their fire evacuation plan and get the animals out of the property that abutted the Napa County line. Rescue Ranch is run by Grass Valley’s Animal Place sanctuary, and executive director Kim Sturla told Galeazzi that she had come to the same conclusion. Galeazzi and the animals would come to the Grass Valley sanctuary.

“Barn by barn, we got behind the hens and we pushed them in the barn and we closed the door behind them,” Galeazzi said. “It sounds a lot easier than it is because they’re running in every direction … We get all the animals in the barn – the goats, the sheep, the pigs, the ducks, the roosters. As soon as all the barns are secure, we start staging our crates – our poultry crates and our carriers outside all the barns. We know how many crates we need at each barn.”

As she and her two staffers started moving the animals into the barn, the volunteer coordinator in Grass Valley activated the nonprofit’s volunteer phone tree. People appeared at Rescue Ranch, seeking assignments.

“From the time we decided we were going to evacuate to when we actually pulled out was a four-hour window,” Galeazzi said. “We got over 1,000 animals crated up and evacuated in four hours. It was amazing. I was in the middle of it, but I was amazed at how everybody goes to task.”

Still, neither Sturla nor Galeazzi are sighing with relief. They don’t know whether their Rescue Ranch facility will be affected by the Atlas fire, and fires keep breaking out near Animal Place’s main sanctuary in Grass Valley.

They are recruiting volunteers to help with the influx of animals, they said, and they are working to get animals adopted. As many as 350, Sturla said, have been found homes.

And, at the same time, Sturla said, they are still fielding calls to take in more animals.

On Oct. 8, an Animal Place staffer went down to Southern California to pick up what they thought would be three male dairy calves, but she found eight of them in appalling conditions. She called Sturla, who agreed to take all of them and asked the staffer to deliver them all to the UC Davis veterinary school. Already, Sturla said, two have had to be euthanized, two are touch-and-go and the other four are stable enough to be taken off IV fluids.

“There’s just a lot going on right now,” Sturla said.

Cathie Anderson: 916-321-1193, @CathieA_SacBee