Farewell to Paradise (A cat rescuers homage)

Edge of the Ridge Paradise California June 15 2019

June 15, 2019, Paradise California. Transfer Station.

It is well past midnight in Paradise California, Butte County. Seven months after the Camp Fire (aka campfire) changed lives and altered landscape forever.

Paradise California June 15 2019
Paradise California feeding station, cat trapping location. Photo by Elizabeth Whitener 2019

PRR (Pet Rescue and Reunification) and FieldHaven Feline Center, have trapped their very last cat for this specific mission.

The Transfer Station, will soon close.

Transfer Station Paradise California
The Transfer Station in Paradise California Temporary cat shelter during the Camp Fire rescue mission in Paradise

More than 600 cats saved in Paradise and Magalia, and still so many out there needing rescue, but the time has come to leave this mission to new hands.

Together in Paradise

Time and circumstance have led us here, to the final kittie round up.

We learned so very much.

Together, with strangers turned friends, I’ve shed tears of joy and sorrow.

Burned out ruins near a cat feeding station in Paradise California
Burned out ruins near a cat feeding station in Paradise California

Living a “Nomadic” life, I have experienced a lot in these past two years. I have personally grown as a rescuer and as a human being in the residue of this tragedy. I gained a new travel companion, along the way.

These hills, strewn with debris and melted cars, will slowly alter and life will prosper.

Life abounds amongst the burned out rubble.

Edge of the Ridge Paradise California June 15 2019
Edge of the Ridge Paradise California June 15 2019

The Earth greens into rebirth despite the sorrows that lay beneath the ashes.

Paradise California Camp Fire excavated burn zone
Sunset on the ridge on land excavated and preparing to rebuild Paradise California. Photo by Elizabeth Whitener Rootless Routes June 2019

Paradise, Magalia and Concow may never be the same, but the will is strong here to rebuild. The sense of renewal is palpable.

To some it may just be a bunch of cats, but to many here, it is the sign of hope.

Image by Forever Friday Design Paradise California
Image by Forever Friday Design Paradise California

Over 600 cats rescued, easily thousands of cats, if all combined rescues are accounted for… and I was a part of it. Just a small part… but part of it nevertheless.

Stay Strong Paradise and Magalia. The sun will continue to rise.

Dusty the Camp Fire Cat

Dusty The Campfire Cat 11/13/2018

On November 8, 2018, a fire started on Camp Creek Road in Paradise California. The resulting fire become the most destructive wildfire in California history.

Somehow thousands of kitties survived.

Dusty the Campfire Cat
Dust Roads aka Dusty the Campfire Cat. At Joy Smith’s house, Director of FieldHaven Feline Center

Even if locked in homes in completely obliterated neighborhoods, kitties… thousands of kitties… escaped through broken windows. They were found hidden within drain pipes, under cars, inside chimneys.

Dusty aka as Dusty the Campfire Cat was rescued from the fire by a good samaritan on November 13, 2018 and found his way to the UC Davis Veterinary Medical School.

This is his story.

Dusty The Campfire Cat 11/13/2018
Dusty the Campfire Cat, discovered in the Paradise fire and brought to UC Davis for help

Paradise Lost

Known as the Camp fire (aka the Campfire) due to its place of origin; the fire ripped through the rural mountain communities of Paradise, Magalia and Concow.

The speed at which the fire burned left it nearly impossible for many to return to their homes.

Ruins of Paradise. Campfire
Ruins of Paradise. Campfire

With no chance to retrieve loved ones, belongings or pets, residents were forced to remain behind the fire lines. Left with no choice but to watch as the fire consumed their world and those they loved.

Many that were either at home or close enough to home to get to their pets, could not find them in time.

Explosions and the resulting confusion during a frantic egress, caused pets to flee. Many hid or were simply too frightened to catch.

The fire, that at one point was burning at the rate of a football field a second, came in so fast, that many people had no choice but to leave the pets they carried behind when the fire roared to their feet.

So many campfire (camp fire) survivors quite literally ran for their lives as the fire surrounded them. Some did not make it out.

After the Fire

The devastating effects of the Camp Fire (Campfire) in the aftermath was stunning. Entire communities were so utterly incinerated, that in looking at it today it is difficult to tell what once stood there.

Homes gone, trees singed, cars that may have pre-fire been brand new, stripped of paint and tires, some even partially melted, left looking derelict and like something from an ‘End of Days’ movie.

The Fire Cats of FieldHaven!

Rescued campfire cats at the Alley Cat Allies Recovery Center for FieldHaven
Rescued campfire cats at the Alley Cat Allies Recovery Center for FieldHaven

FieldHaven Feline Center with the support of Alley Cat Allies, as well as other local rescue groups and shelters worked together (and continue to do so) with online Facebook pages, made up of dedicated cat matchers to find lost kitties and try to reunite them with their people.

A myriad of groups built databases, manned Facebook pages to tirelessly find, trap and reunite kitties from the burn zones.

With the help of so many dedicated volunteers, NVADG saved hundreds, if not thousands of animals. Despite NVADG’s inexperience and refusal to coordinate with other groups and their lack of preparation, the volunteers made a huge impact and helped so many.

I may go further into this matter about NVADG in future posts, but we return to the story of Dusty the Campfire Cat.

Once NVADG pulled out, countless independent trappers, feeders and shelters worked together to seek out and rescue the thousands of surviving cats left behind.

They continue to do so today.

FieldHaven Feline Center Lincoln 4/2019
FieldHaven Feline Center Lincoln 4/2019

FieldHaven, an established and well respected cat rescue and shelter that has provided shelter and TNR (Trap Neuter Release) assistance in many neighbouring areas for the past 15 years, received funding support from Alley Cat Allies to open a second shelter in Marysville California, to provide space for the unbelievable amount of cats being rescued every day.

The Alley Cat Allies Recovery Center for FieldHaven, was filled the first day open.

A few months later the Alley Cat Allies Transfer Station for FieldHaven was opened in Paradise.

Alley Cat Allies Transfer Station for FieldHaven in Paradise.
Alley Cat Allies Transfer Station for FieldHaven in Paradise.

Having worked civilian rescue remotely, for the last 5 hurricanes and floods, as well as for the Woolsey Fire, I jumped in to support FieldHaven with the campfire kitties.

Dusty Roads the Camp Fire Cat

Dusty Roads aka Dust the Campfire Cat is one chill cat. (yes that IS a bong behind him... but he does not care to partake)
Dusty Roads aka Dust the Campfire Cat is one chill cat. (yes that IS a bong behind him… but he does not care to partake)

I do not yet know who found Dusty. But he became one of a handful of cats severely burned, that found themselves at UC Davis Veterinary Medicine Learning Hospital.

I can safely assume that this is why my precious Dusty the Campfire Cat is here and with us today. P

See Banana, another Camp Fire cat on Instagram.

This top teaching veterinary hospital, offered a chance for these cats to live and Dusty now know as Dusty Roads or Dusty the Campfire Cat, was one of those survivors.

Found with all of his fur singed, Dusty was covered in 1st, 2nd & 3rd degree burns. His eyes were infected and glued shut, his ears and feet scorched, nipples and scrotum seared. Doubtless to say, Dusty was in bad shape.

It is assumed that Dusty got his name because he came in with all of his fur singed and covered in ash, in result he appeared to be grey and not black.

Dusty was transferred from VCA Valley Oak Veterinary Center in Chico and hospitalised at the UC Davis Medical Teaching Hospital on November 13, 2018. Just days into the firestorm.

Dusty aka Dusty Roads or Dusty the Campfire Cat, had his second eyelids removed. He had his eyelids reconstructed, numerous toes amputated and his ears abraded. He was left with chronic upper respiratory issues. Dusty also tested positive for FIV.

Dusty Roads aka Dusty the Campfire Cat

Since the day I saw posts about Dusty I thought about adopting him. But being that I live on the road and travel overseas often, I felt concerned about not only taking on such a responsibility, but also if a nomadic life was right for a cat that had been through so much, so I discounted it.

Yet, there he sat. I adopted. Although FieldHaven is a wonderful place for cats. Huge pens with outdoor access and a well organised and run system. Still it is life in a cage in the end.

As mentioned in my more recent post, my son was sick of caring for my cat Dew, so I headed out from Virginia Beach to Portland to pick her up.

Making a wee detour to Lincoln California to visit Joy Smith the director of FieldHaven Feline Center; the group with which I had volunteered from afar for so long.

The first thing I did once I’d settled into her beautiful and welcoming home was ask about Dusty.

It wasn’t until the second day that I went to meet him. The third day I brought him to Joys house to see how he’d adapt to change. Then Joy and I brought him in a small road trip. Dust The Campfire Cat was nearly unfazeable. He settled into every situation with ease and was completely calm driving with me.

Dusty the Campfire Cat, now know as Dusty Roads, instantly became part of the family.

Together we drove to Portland Oregon, to pick up Dew the cat.  Tomorrow we set out on the road to Yellowstone Park.

Does he has issues? Yes. He can’t run. His feet badly scarred, part of his ears have burned off. I do not think he sees well in the dark.

Already sort of a smoosh face, the addition of scar tissue from smoke damage to his nasal passages will mean it likely something upper respiratory that gets him in the end.

Until it is time for him to say goodbye to this Earth, I’m going to be there for him.

A true fighter with an undefinable spirit, I just adore the little guy. I think he feels the same about me.

Stay tuned for Dusty the Fire Cat aka Dusty Roads adventures as a full time traveler with me!