05/08/2009 at 01:33 PM EDT
As the hillsides of Santa Barbara continue to burn, the community has lost dozens of homes and 13,000 residents have evacuated with another 13,000 on alert. But thousands of animals also have been displaced, officials say, and three organizations are assisting in the rescue and housing of more than 500 of them – including 46 horses, a llama, emus, parrots, pigs, goats, an 80-lb. tortoise, chickens and scores of cats and dogs.
Most of the animals have been brought to the shelters by evacuating owners, but more than 300 volunteers are helping care for, and in some cases, bring in those animals left behind when swirling winds with gusts up to 65 mph spurred the blaze and forced owners to evacuate before they could collect their animals. "We have assisted in bringing in a couple of hundred animals," says Jan Glick, animal services director of Santa Barbara County. "We had a lot of activity Wednesday night."
Still, there have been losses. A few cats had to be left behind in homes and a herd of goats scattered, with about six missing, says Glick. The L.A. Times reports that a donkey is also unaccounted for.
"We have 325 animals here," says Peggy Langle of the Santa Barbara Humane Society, "including Amazon Gheko. We are picking up eight horses now," she said Thursday. "We are preparing for the worst and hoping for the best. This is the worst night ever. Two more evacuations were just called and 250 homes were just evacuated."
The organizations assisting include the Santa Barbara Humane Society, the Santa Barbara Equine Assistance and Evacuation team and the Santa Barbara County Animal Services. More than 1,000 firefighters are battling the blaze, which is expected to consume 2,500 acres. Some 3,500 homes are threatened. No deaths have been reported but three firefighters have been hospitalized for burns.
How can you help? Visit the Santa Barbara Humane Society
's Web site to learn more.