Saving the Jesusita Fire Cats


This week, Karen Lee Stevens of WeHo/Santa Barbara wrote about the steps taken to house feline refugees from the Jesusita Fire in Santa Barbara.

Wilted by the triple digit temperatures last Tuesday afternoon, I made a quick stop at Costco for an icy-cold chocolate vanilla swirl.

Driving back home along Hollister Avenue, I noticed a small plume of smoke rise ominously in the mountains above Santa Barbara and thought, Here we go again.

On the other end of Goleta, tucked away in a grove of majestic trees on Overpass Road, it was just another day at the Animal Shelter Assistance Program (ASAP).

Volunteers at the 20-year-old, non-profit cat shelter were busy cleaning cages, changing litter boxes, and making sure each of the 75 adoptable kitties felt safe and loved while they waited patiently for a new friend to come along and say, Id like to adopt this one!

In just a few hours, everyones lives would be turned upside down.

Fueled by high winds and low humidity, the Jesusita Fire devoured everything in its path as it raced ever closer to hundreds of homes in the hills.

ASAP President, Angela Rockwell, was downtown when she, too, looked skyward and saw smoke. She immediately called Animal Services and asked if there was anything her organization could do to help. Their response: How fast can you get here?

Many of ASAPs volunteers had been evacuated from their homes, but still they came in droves, ready and willing to help the cats in any way they could. They stayed into the wee hours of the morning, tidying up and making sure each kitty had a soft bed and a reassuring scratch under the chin.

During that first night, ASAP took in more than 60 cats; at one point the following day, they accepted about 50 cats in one hour.

We were putting cats in carriers and dog cratesanything that was big enough to house a cat, a little box, and food and water bowls, Angela said.

We stacked carriers from the floor to the ceiling; we used every available inch of space. We did whatever we could to accommodate every cat who came through the door. We didnt turn anyone away.

All in all, ASAP provided a safe haven for approximately 220 cats, all the while caring for dozens of adoptable cats who were already being housed at the shelter.

In a telephone conversation on Monday, Angela told me she was blown away by the efforts and the open hearts of people who came out and did what needed to be done.

She marveled at ASAPs volunteerswho didnt have any kind of formal disaster trainingas they took evacuees by the hand and walked them through the process of checking in their cats.

Just seeing the relief on peoples faces, knowing that their cats had a safe place to go; it washard to describe, Angela said, her voice filled with emotion.

It just means so much to be able to help people and be a part of a community like ASAP.

As I thanked Angela for all shed accomplished on behalf of the fires most vulnerable victims, she was quick to point out that it wasnt the effort of one, but the toil of many that made an enormous difference for the animals.

Hundreds of people came together to make all this possible, she said. I get to brag about ASAP because we did it without the support of a national charity or a big budget. We did it from a true, community-based grassroots effort. Im very proud of that fact.

If you would like to contribute to ASAPs ongoing financial needs, please send a donation to ASAP, PO Box 357, Goleta, CA 93116. Send your thoughts to Karen Stevens at For more columns, visit

Do you have a disaster plan for your cats in case of an emergency? If you’re not home when disaster strikes, your pets could survive the disaster, but might not be reunited with you if they’re not chipped and tagged. A traditional tag with a phone number or address won’t help if your home is destroyed and your phone is out of service.

The Together Tag pet recovery service, developed by Catster in partnership with the American Red Cross, is an innovative pet ID and recovery service that functions as a stand-alone solution or as a complement to your pets existing microchip. You can provide out-of-area contact info, medical info, and more, ensuring that if your pet is found, you’ll be reunited as quickly as possible.

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