Woolsey Fire mobilizes animal rescue community

The Woolsey Fire that has burned more than 83,000 acres, destroyed at least 177 homes and forced the evacuation of more than 265,000 people in Los Angeles and Ventura counties is also mobilizing the localanimal rescue community, as volunteers scrambled to find shelter for thousands of small pets and large animals alike.

Evacuation centers for animals at Hansen Dam in Lake View Terrace and Pierce College in Woodland Hills quickly filled up after opening Friday.

Another center was available at the Antelope Valley Fairgrounds at 2551 W. Ave H in Lancaster.

The Los Angeles County Department of Animal Services was in the fire area providing further assistance.

"Community! Let's rally together to help the displaced animals and their human companions in this urgent situation," the department tweeted Saturday. "Kennels/crates are needed at sheltering sites - please take them to the office of Council Member Bob Blumenfield at 19040 Vanowen St. Reseda, CA

91335 Thank you all!"

The department also encouraged people to go to their closest animal care center and adopt animals to clear space for those displaced by the fire.

City officials in Los Angeles also sent out an emergency message seeking foster families.

"If you can adopt or foster, please go to the closest LA City Animal Service Center to help create life-saving space during the high winds and fire.

This is an EMERGENCY!" said a post on the department's Facebook page.

City shelters in the East Valley, West Valley and West Los Angeles are accepting evacuated animals.

A large animal evacuation center was established at the Zuma Beach parking lot in Malibu, where a photo from the Los Angeles Times showed llamas tethered to a lifeguard station backed by a red sky. Industry Hills Expo Center in the San Gabriel Valley was also offering shelter for horses from fire- affected areas.

The county's Agoura Animal Care Center was evacuated, but the remaining six Los Angeles County animal care centers -- in Baldwin Park, Carson/Gardena, Castaic, Downey, Lancaster and Palmdale --- were accepting small animals.

In Ventura County, Borchard Community Center at 190 Reino Rd. in Newbury Park was accepting dogs and cats, while the Camarillo Community Center at 1605 E. Burnley St. was accepting small animals. Those who need large animal assistance were advised to call (805) 388-4258.

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals' Los Angeles chapter said Saturday that they would deploy a disaster response team to the Woolsey Fire after answering the call for mutual aid from the Los Angeles County Department of Care and Control.

"SpcaLA is headed to a staging area in Thousand Oaks, where DART members will report to Los Angeles County Incident Command. DART consists of humane officers, veterinary staff, animal care givers, and other professionals," SPCALA President Madeline Bernstein said.

She also urged people who want to support SPCALA's disaster relief efforts to donate at spcaLA.com. Additionally, donations of unopened pet food and wire crates to supplement what SPCALA is bringing to the Woolsey Fire can be dropped off at any spcaLA location during operating hours, or purchased on spcaLA's Amazon Wish List.

Bunny World Foundation founder Lejla Hadzimuratovic said the phone at her Los Angeles-based rabbit rescue group was ringing nonstop with calls about domestic rabbits being dumped by residents fleeing their homes. She was taking requests from people who need help -- and those who want to help -- via email at info@bunnyworldfoundation.org.

VCA Animal Hospitals offered free boarding at select hospitals for families affected by the fires in Ventura and Los Angeles counties.

"These raging fires have impacted countless families, many with pets who need to find shelter," said Art Antin, the company's chief operating officer. "VCA hospitals in the area of the fires are extending free boarding for pets, so evacuated families can focus on their most pressing priorities."

The fire, which erupted Thursday, has forced a citywide evacuation in Malibu and parts or all of many other Los Angeles County areas, including Westlake Village, Hidden Hills, Agoura Hills, West Hills, Topanga and Calabasas. It was 10 percent contained Sunday.

Cal Fire officials said the cause was under investigation.

Winds died down Saturday, but were picking up again Sunday, as the National Weather Service issued a red flag warning for gusty winds and low humidity in effect through Tuesday afternoon.