SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Center successfully evacuated hundreds of animals during the Holiday Fire, and now the cleanup effort is in full effect.
Volunteers are keeping busy spraying off cages and removing debris from the Holiday Fire.
“We have ash in every nook and cranny,” said Ariana Katovich, the development director Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Center in Goleta. She considers herself and her facility lucky.
While the Holiday Fire destroyed other homes and buildings just down the street, the care center is still standing. Burn marks show just how close the flames got. The biggest damage is from smoke, making the place unhealthy for the animals.
“We treat sensitive species, and species in recovery so I think our biggest issue is going to be the amount of ash and contamination that is inside the building,” said Katovich.
The Wildlife Care Center works with more than 3,000 animals a year. When the fire broke out a group of volunteers dropped everything to move at least 200 animals out of harm's way. All of them taken to the Humane Society where they'll stay until it’s safe to return.
“Anything from hummingbirds to pelicans, raccoons, possums, crows,” said Katovich.
Not all of the animals made it out safely that night.
“They lost a possum that they nicknamed 'Sweetie' and she died in her cage and two birds,” Katovich. “All and all we think that just losing three is a miracle in itself.
Volunteers from the Bucket Brigade have helped in the cleanup efforts all week.
“This is something that we have never done before, but the idea is to get all the smoke damage out of the area where you put the baby animals in and injuries animals and get it cleaned,” said Abe Powell, the founder of Bucket Brigade. “We are cleaning all the pens, and incubators, and rooms where they treat the animals and get it ready for them to be brought back,” said Powell.
“The Bucket Brigade is community resilience exemplified and just to have them as heroes first in Montecito, then to have them help us is a little surreal,” said Katovich. "It’s surreal that we are even in this situation, but what a relief.”
While the facility is not sure when most animals can return, four baby raccoons were among the first animals to return back home.
The Bucket Brigade will be back out through Friday helping out homeowners at different locations.