Animal rescuer tells what it was like behind the lines
By Shelley Lewis, Kenwood resident
On the morning of Monday, Oct. 9, my partner, Zach Power, and I awoke (out of town) to news of a fire in the Kenwood area, but, according to the TV news maps, it was not even near our home on Treehaven Lane. Then, at 11:30 p.m., I received a voicemail from our nextdoor neighbor saying, “Your home is gone, our home is gone, the whole street is gone, so sorry...” – click.
Zach had been working on our Kenwood home until 10 p.m. Sunday night when he decided to head back to Auburn for a job early the next morning. After a nine-month process, we had just finished remodeling the property. It was beautiful, and we had put our hearts into our “forever” home here in Kenwood.
That day was a blur, but I do recall going to pick up our horse trailer, filling it with hay, animal feed, a huge generator, water storage barrels and random clothing for ourselves. We knew that Oakmont, where my mother owns a home, was vacated in the middle of the night and there would be animals left behind with little food or water. We also knew the horses and farm animals would need help, so we headed back to town loaded with supplies, determined to get through police blockades.
Fortunately, Zach has a contractor’s truck complete with caution tape and safety vests in the dash window and an old firefighter T-shirt. With a little luck, and help from above, we were waved through the blockades and able to enter the evacuation zone. Once inside, I hopped online and posted on social media sites asking for news of animals behind that needed care. Within hours we had details of pets pouring in. We set to work, driving door to door looking for the animals, leaving food wherever we went. The outpouring by concerned pet owners was touching and also overwhelming. We slept in our truck on our burned out lot the first night and awoke to a surreal site at sunrise.
With very little sleep each night we woke ready each day, feeling we had a mission to serve. By day three, the list had grown quite long and accessing Oakmont was becoming very difficult, though we managed even when others could not. After feeding countless pets and evacuating ducks, chickens, rabbits, a kitten, a Scotty dog, parakeets, a parrot, a lizard and a huge fish (most of which were taken to the blockades and given to their owners), we decided to sleep in my mother’s vacant home. Desperately looking forward to a good night’s sleep, we were awoken by alarms that the fire was coming toward Oakmont. Under blazing night skies, we returned to Kenwood.
With all the hauling, the brakes went out on our truck. We knew if we left the blockades to get them repaired we could not return. Steve Marshall at Marshall’s Auto Repair came to our rescue, repairing our brakes and getting us running again. Then, hearing we were sleeping in our truck, he gave us a place to stay in town at his parents home. What a lifesaver he was!
That next day, an urgent call came in about horses, sheep, and cats abandoned in a closed-off area, with the owner MIA. On our way down Highway 12, we were elated when two gals with a horse trailer appeared out of nowhere. These “rescue angels” as I call them, Melanie Lourme and Hilary Merrill, had rolled up and flagged us down. “We heard you are the guys rescuing the animals and we want to help,” they said. With their help we were able to get to horses and large animals way out on Trinity/Cavedale Road. Along the way, we stopped to feed animals at Stone Edge Farm and arrived just as a fire was starting next to a coop full of chickens, ducks and bunnies. With water on our truck, Zach immediately started putting out the fire while we evacuated the animals.
The following day, driving by our burned-out street, Treehaven, Zach spotted a neighbor’s home that was starting to catch fire. He jumped out and started spraying the home while I called the Kenwood Fire Department, who came to the rescue. If Zach had not been there, or hadn’t responded so quickly, that home would be gone.
As the week went on and people heard about our mission, more people reached out to help. Aspen at Swede’s Feeds received word of pets in need and forwarded the information to us. Local girls Lori and Hannah Fantozzi helped care for cats in the Warm Springs and Lawndale Areas. Sarah Duran was a big help also. It was wonderful to have a team of gals ready to assist. When we finally got word on day eight (or nine?) that people could start returning home, we were overjoyed with relief! By then, we had turned over all pet needs to Animal Services and were just monitoring care.
We served our purpose, and along the way met many wonderful people and came to love our town and this community even more. We will definitely rebuild and live out our lives here... there is no doubt for us. So many have asked how they can show their thanks. For Zach and me it was an honor to bring peace of mind to pet owners and it helped us heal from our loss. For the “rescue angels”… well… they need repairs to their truck and trailer. If you would like to help out, please text me at 595-7050.