Fire Roundup: Losses and Good Deeds

Vet student tends to injured cat.
Valerie Fates, a first-year veterinary student, tends to one of the injured cats that came in Oct. 13 with injuries from wildfire. (Rob Warren/UC Davis photo)


Aggies Helping Students: Wildfire and Hurricane Relief Efforts — “True to our Aggie spirit, many of you have asked how you can support those affected by recent natural disasters near and far.” Through Oct. 31, there are three convenient ways for you to donate on campus:

The proceeds will be split 50/50 between the Redwood Empire Food Bank and the Florida State College Student Emergency Food Pantry.


UC Davis Veterinary Catastrophic Need Fund — “Many of the fire victims we treat are from families who have lost everything. Please consider donating to the School of Veterinary Medicine’s Veterinary Catastrophic Need Fund to help treat animals affected by these wildfires.”

A week after the firestorm began in wine country, we’re getting a better picture of the losses incurred by people connected to UC Davis, as well as the care we’ve provided for people and animals — including cats and koi. 

A lecturer on the Davis campus and three non-UC Davis researchers at the university’s Bodega Marine Laboratory lost their homes in the wine country fires, Dateline UC Davis has confirmed. The researchers, like most of the lab staff, live inland — mainly in the Santa Rosa area where the Tubbs fire struck in the middle of a windy night, Oct. 8-9.

“There were a handful of staff that evacuated their homes — including Gary Cherr, the director of the BML — and all staff have returned to their homes,” said Patrick Helbling, assistant director. “Although no BML staff lost their homes, many are now dealing with cleanup.”

The lab provided temporary housing for as many as 31 people during the fire emergency. That number was down to four as of Monday (Oct. 16). “BML will continue to provide housing as necessary,” Helbling said.

Helbling reported last week that the lab was accommodating modified schedules for employees to deal with their own evacuations, or to assist family members and friends. In addition, staff members who serve as volunteer firefighters were allowed to take time off to report for firefighting duty.

In an updated memo Monday, Helbling said most staff members who modified their schedules had returned to full, regular schedules. “As the events continue to unfold, BML will remain committed to working with each staff to ensure they have the time they need to address personal and family-related needs,” he said.

The lab has been coordinating with campus counseling services, to ensure all lab personnel have the support they need.

Virginia Hamilton, communication lecturer, also lost her home in Santa Rosa. A friend of hers started a GoFundMe campaign for Hamilton, and the lecturer subsequently clarified that the money is not for her: “It will go to the dozens and dozens of misplaced young people (my children’s friends 20-24 years old) who have lost their ‘rental’ residences at the same time their parents have lost their childhood houses.”

Professor John Madigan, VERT director, and veterinary students feed a horse they discovered Oct. 12 on one of their search and rescue missions in Sonoma County.

The School of Veterinary Medicine has sent one or more teams into the fire zone daily: the Veterinary Emergency Response Team, or VERT; and livestock herd health and equine field service teams, comprising veterinarians and students. Claudia Sonder of the Center for Equine Health has also been in the field daily, on search and rescue missions.

1 cat comes with a note

Injured cat lies next to gray sweater, in cage.
Apu lies next to owner's gray sweater.

Last Friday (Oct. 13), the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital took in eight cats, all with burns to their paws and face/ears. In a Facebook post the next day, the vet school noted that all the cats had identified owners, one of whom sent along a note and one of her sweaters. The note read, in part, “THANK YOU!! Whomever tends to my baby Apu. Thank you for your love and care of my angel,” and asked the vet school, “Will you please leave it (the sweater) with him?”

The vet school responded on Facebook: “Rest assured … he’s in good hands … we’ll love him as if he were our own.”

The vet school also took in two llamas. One had to be euthanized, because of injuries, but the other, Pecos, went home Monday, as pictured here on Instagram.

Related story: Taking the World’s Best Veterinary Care to the Next Level

30 koi find refuge on campus

UC Davis’ care is not confined to livestock, horses, dogs and cats. The university is providing temporary “housing” for 30 koi.

Two rescued koi in UC Davis tank
Rescued koi in tank at UC Davis’ Center for Aquatic Biology of Aquaculture this morning, (Diane Nelson/UC Davis photo)

“In some cases, the fish came from homes that were completely burned down, so the koi are all that were left,” said Linda Deanovic, director of the Center for Aquatic Biology of Aquaculture where the koi are being cared for conjunction with the School of Veterinary Medicine.

The fires knocked out power to thousands of homes in Santa Rosa and throughout the wine country. Fish have trouble surviving in ponds without the aeration and water filtration that electricity provides.

“The fish had probably gone several days without aerated water,” Deanovic said. See video of part of the rescue operation and learn how the rescuers provided aeration on the ride to UC Davis.

Deanovic and her team will care for the koi for up to three months while seeking good, temporary housing for fish until the fire victims are able to rebuild their homes.

Read more about the koi rescue.

Stay up-to-date with all of the School of Veterinary Medicine’s activities in response to the wildfires.

Oakville Station remains evacuated

The university’s Oakville Station research vineyard in the Napa Valley remained evacuated as of this morning (Oct. 17). Electricity had been cut off, and generators were being used to keep freezers going.

Sahap Kaan Kurtural, viticulture specialist in Cooperative Extension, reported that “refueling the generators is working as planned” and that his group of 14 scientists has relocated to the main campus “for the time being ’til the smoke and ash can be mitigated inside the offices and the analytical labs.”   

UC Davis’ Natural Reserve System office reported today that staff had returned to the Quail Ridge Reserve, in the vicinity of Lake Berryessa, after the Atlas fire threatened and prompted evacuation. None of the six UC Davis-managed reserves sustained any damage.

Firefighters work 24-hour shifts

Six campus firefighters remained on strike team duty as of this morning, working shifts lasting 24 hours or more:

  • In the wine country — Dave Stiles (captain), Kyle Dubs (engineer), and Jon Poganski and Gerrit Dykzeul (firefighters) are manning the campus’s brush fire truck, while Capt. Steve Dunn is the strike team leader.
  • In Butte County — Battalion Chief Nate Hartinger is a strike team leader trainee with the state Office of Emergency Services.

Diane Nelson of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, and Rob Warren of the School of Veterinary Medicine contributed to this report.

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