Just as Guide Dogs of the Desert was keeping an eye on the Apple Fire, the Water Fire broke out and started moving closer to campus. Immediately, staff took action.
Angela Coleman, Medical Director at Guide Dogs of the Desert, always stays on campus to look after the dogs. On Sunday, she walked outside to see the Water Fire quickly approaching.
“You could see the fire on the ridge, cresting the ridge, right behind the school,” Coleman said. “It was pretty terrifying.”
Guide Dogs of the Desert is located in Whitewater. The Water Fire tore through 70 acres of land nearby. Coleman said “everything is dry” in that area and the conditions are always windy.
“The smoke got really bad, we couldn’t breath, so we got all the dogs,” Coleman said.
“We had twenty dogs on campus that we needed to place into homes and our volunteer puppy raisers assembled at the kennel, as well as our board members and our staff,” Jennifer Heggie, director of development for Guide Dogs of the Desert, said. “We were able to get those dogs out just in a matter of hours.”
Michalanna Padilla, training supervisor for Guide Dogs of the Desert, said she was on her way home from vacation when she got the call that a fire was approaching.
“My staff and I, we each took a couple of dogs,” Padilla said. “So I took Marian here.”
Padilla said she has been training Marian, one of the dogs, at home with her family. Families from all over have stepped up and taken in the pups for a “staycation” this week.
They had more puppy-raisers come in than dogs that needed to be evacuated, Heggie said.
“There were so many volunteers that assembled on campus so fast, we didn’t even need to use a boarding facility,” she said.
As of Tuesday, the Water Fire was fully contained but the Apple Fire is still burning.
The dogs will return to campus on Friday for training because their schedules are extremely important.
“We don’t like them to have too much down time,” Heggie said.
The dogs are trained to be service dogs for the blind. To help out Guide Dogs of the Desert during the pandemic, you can visit https://www.guidedogsofthedesert.org/.