An AAHA-accredited practice rides out the wildfire


The Facebook post read:

“To all the Trinity County residents: We send our prayers and wish for a safe return home. Our hospital has reached full capacity; we are caring for many evacuees. Due to the circumstances, our Hayfork office will be closed tomorrow. We are able to see appointments in Weaverville, with the limitations of power supply. We are having a lot of trouble reaching everyone, so please share.”

Suddenly, it was 2017 all over again. Memories loomed of that late summer maelstrom of seemingly endless wildfire and floodwater snarling across the south and much of the west. Stark remembrances of the appalling devastation that swirled in its wake, and of the AAHA-accredited practices that stood in its path.

This year, there's only one practice, and it faces just one threat: California’s Carr wildfire, one of the most brutal fires in the state’s history. Already it’s incinerated an area four times the size of San Francisco, leaving six dead and more than 1,000 homes destroyed since it ignited July 23, lit by a random spark from a towed vehicle; it still burns out of control as shifting winds, steep terrain, and blistering heat challenge the more than 4,000 firefighters who struggle to contain it.

NEWStat reached out to AAHA-accredited Trinity Animal Hospital in Weaverville, which is about 100 miles from the wildfire’s epicenter in the town of Redding in Northern California’s Shasta County.

Sonni Kofoed, Trinity’s receptionist and exam room assistant, picked up the phone. She confirmed the Facebook post.

“[The fire’s] right down the road,” Kofoed said. “We’re nine miles from the edge.” And the hospital’s full past capacity. “We’ve got 50-plus animals right now. That’s a lot for us. We’re a very small hospital.” She says it’s hard to keep track of the number of evacuees’ pets they’re sheltering. “It fluctuates.”

So does the fire.

Kofoed says the winds are tricky. “They keep flipping back and forth,” she says. “It’s very hot, very dry, and the winds will be north/northwesterly one day, which is the direction we don’t want it to go, and then they’ll turn around and go back the next day.”

At this point, Kofoed says, it doesn’t look like Trinity’s going to have to evacuate. “We did have an evacuation [order] for Weaverville itself last Sunday, but [officials] rescinded it.” Kofoed says that right now, Kofoed says, authorities are evacuating people from the town of Lewiston, seven miles away.

Morale at the hospital is good.

“Everybody’s tired,” Kofoed says cheerfully, “But we’re getting through it.”

Kofoed’s good spirits are especially laudable considering that she herself is a Carr fire evacuee—one of two Trinity employees who were forced to flee their homes. They’re among the lucky ones—neither has so far lost their home.

Until firefighters get the blaze under control and give Kofoed the all clear, she and her husband are camping out in their RV on a friend’s property over in Junction City with their dog, Betty, and their cat, Mia. “It’s pretty crowded,” she concedes.

But she’s not out of the woods yet, not while they’re still burning.

Kofoed says the fire could change direction again. “It’s unlikely, but not impossible.”

Photo credit: © iStock/milehightraveler

NEWStat Interesting/unusual