Brush Fire Burns; Community Rises

A brush fire burned throughout the North Valley in Arizona during the last week of June and showed the strength and selflessness of an animal-loving community.  

As Arizona residents, we are no strangers to the precarious nature of fire season, and we are used to the constant change in fire-danger levels throughout the dry season, but last week a fire burned a little too close to home and particularly to our family here at Salus Medical. 

Many of our Salus Medical family were affected by a brush fire just north of our Salus offices and warehouse, which spread to the surrounding areas among many homes with larger lots housing a variety of animals and livestock.

Multiple Salus employees had to leave work and flee to their homes on Friday with as little as 15 minutes notice to evacuate with their family members, animals, medications, and other essential items. 

Between 1,600-1,800 homes were left without power due to outages in the area and hundreds of livestock were evacuated.

According to Salus employee Jodi Dovidio, helicopters, DC-10 planes, and smaller aircraft were completely synchronized in flight directly above her home, and others in her neighborhood, while dropping water and retardant to extinguish the flames. 

Amid a global pandemic and social unrest throughout the country (and the rest of the world), it seemed as if we were being kicked when we were down.

Smoke Rises and Community Follows Suit

Luckily, there was the local community and in particular one Facebook group that was ready to step in and assist. 

The Arizona Foothills 911 Facebook Group helps evacuate animals in the event of floods, fires, and other natural disasters. The group is made up of local volunteers who house/board animals that are displaced free of charge until owners can come to reclaim the animals/relocate them to their proper homes. 

The group organizes all incoming animals (with the mayor of Cave Creek opening its rodeo grounds to accommodate rescued animals), catalogs all animals/trailers including detailed photos of each animal, and dispatches requests for trailers in the area to transport animals from location to location. At least 100+ trailers have shown up for the past two fires.

Arizona Foothills 911 uses its Facebook page to communicate their real-time needs and to list updates from the forest service and fire departments.

“Neighbors helping neighbors because…it’s the right thing to do.”

Motto of Arizona Foothills 911 Facebook Group

This group and many others sprang into action last week as residents and their animals were forced to evacuate the area so firefighters and hotshots could attempt to contain the blaze. 

They also posted constant updates as to the status of the fire as well as providing information about the location of any animals that may have been evacuated without their owners. The fire spread so quickly that some animals were relocated to a nearby rodeo grounds by volunteers if homeowners were offsite.

Dovidio’s son and daughter-in-law took in three entire families outside of their extended family members and at least 40 horses even creating an organized drop-off system for the horses and other animals at their ranch. 

And what has otherwise been an extremely emotionally draining experience has also shown the strength, care, and resilience of the horse community in Arizona (and no doubt elsewhere). 

Low Structure Damage

The firemen were extremely effective at stopping the spread of the fires past the walls of each home (in the neighborhood in question the lots are each 1-acre in size). 

One house was burnt to the studs, but there is already a plan in place to tear down the structure so the insurance company can start the rebuilding process.

The local community is hoping to get names or addresses of the fire crews that saved their structures and livestock to say thank you or possibly collect funds for a monetary gift. 

The fire is reported to have multiple sources of origin, which indicates arson, and 85-90% of forest fires are the result of human causes (debris fires, unattended campfires, dropped cigarettes, arson), but there is no confirmed cause at this time.

Regardless, we at Salus Medical are thankful for the safety of our employees, family members, and animals. We are also heartened by the selfless support of our local community and the tireless efforts of wildland firefighters who jumped into action to save as many animals, people, and structures as possible.