When fire evacuations were ordered in the Fairbanks Ranch and Rancho Santa Fe areas the afternoon of May 13, the staff at the Helen Woodward Animal Center sprung into action.
The center’s evacuation plan called for the small dogs and puppies to be taken to the Petco store in Encinitas. Some larger dogs were taken to the Rancho Coastal Humane Society and other sites around the county. Shannon, a Helen Woodward staff member who was coordinating at Petco said, “The center planned for this emergency. The evacuation went well.”
At 4:15 p.m., Heidi from Encinitas put out the call for volunteers on Twitter and Facebook to all of her friends, and also listed on several another social media sites. Others did the same.
In its live-TV fire coverage, at around 5:30 p.m., KUSI also put out a call for volunteers. By 6:00 p.m., enough volunteers had arrived at the Petco to cuddle, calm, walk, feed, and clean up after each of the 30 or so puppies.
Jeff Detrow of KyXy 96.5 FM's Jeff and Jer Showgram showed up with his family. He said his wife was at the Rancho Coastal Thrift Store in Cardiff when the call for volunteers came in there. She headed home to get him and their daughter and brought them to the store.
One woman had just moved from Northern California to Vista two days ago. Her dad called from Encinitas to tell her about the fire — she said she had no idea what he was talking about when he said “evacuations.” She showed up early to the Petco store, grabbed a clipboard, and checked in volunteers for several hours. Others that arrived later assumed she worked for the center.
The puppies were going to spend the night in the store’s training room — several volunteers had planned to spend the night with them.
At 7:00 p.m. it was announced that Petco arranged for the pups to be moved to the Pooch Hotel in Mission Valley at no cost to the animal center. Shannon announced to all that the plan was to transport the puppies back to the center the next day.
The announcement coincided with a 7:00 p.m. press conference with mayor Kevin Faulconer and first responders, who said that while the fire was only 5 percent contained, much progress was expected overnight, due to the winds calming down as the sun set. Some evacuated residents were being allowed back into their neighborhoods.