A catastrophic wind-fueled blaze erupted in Boulder County on Thursday 30th December 2021. The fire, which is believed to have been started by a power line damaged in 110mph winds, was moving at an alarming rate, burning up to a football field worth of land every second. Residents at the nearby community of Marshall (after which the fire was named) were forced to evacuate their homes and flee to safety.
According to Boulder County Sheriff, Joe Pelle, the entire subdivision of Superior Sagamore was burned affected 370 homes. A further 210 homes and a Target shopping centre and hotel also burned in the Old Town neighborhood. However, further damage is under investigation with structures west of superior also being affected by the blaze.
One of the businesses under threat from the fire was Dog Tag, the dog boarding facility containing dozens of pets for out of town or working owners. One of the dog owners, Andrew Thomson, had been out of town with his family when he heard of the fire. Thomson and his family had been carefully monitoring the news regarding the fire from their out-of-town location in an attempt to find out anything that could help them know if their dog, Dexter the Goldendoodle, was alright.
“We just wanted to know he was safe and then we would worry about our house and things like that,” Thomson told the Washington Post.
Thomson had called multiple numbers in a desperate attempt to find out if Dexter was safe before finally getting in touch with staff member Ellie Creasey. Creasey had been in between shifts when she received the phone call. Once she learned of the fire’s proximity to the boarding facility she immediately attempted to return to assistant in evacuations – however, the roads were closed off surrounding the facility.
Creasey then contacted her boss, the owner of Dog Tag, to find out if there was anything that she could do. Her boss had loaded a dozen dogs into her car to transport them to safety but was unable to fit any more in. Sadly she couldn’t return to the facility once she had left. Knowing this, the owner had left all of the facility doors open and opened every kennel so that none of the dogs would be trapped should the fire reach that far.
Seeing as she was unable to get into Superior to help her boss with the removal of dogs from the shelter, Creasey took it upon herself to begin working as best she could from home. This entailed calling the owners of the dogs left at Dog Tag and updating them on the situation as well as contacting nearby shelters and speaking with the community via social media.
Creasey’s efforts were not in vain as it mobilized the local community to go in search of any dogs that may have fled the boarding facility. Pet owners from the affected area had quickly begun to post images and pleas for help in finding their beloved pets that had escaped during the chaos. Once the devastating blaze had finally burned out and it was safe to return people from all over began the search, including people from various areas of Colorado driving in to aid the search on foot.
According to Sheriff Pelle, the Animal Control office had been working tirelessly to recover lost pets. They have pleaded for owners to submit their animal rescue requests through the Boulder Office of Emergency Management website so that order could be maintained and the rescue teams could work more efficiently.
Amy Hwang, a resident of Fort Collins, roughly an hour north of Boulder, had seen the news of the disastrous fire and leapt into action, much as Creasey did. Her Twitter account quickly became an active hub of information for pet owners who would send photographs and information to be shared. Hwang would also retweet information from various local shelters that had been actively assisting in the searches as well as veterinarian information. She would also share uplifting success stories showing families reunited with their lost pets. Hwang even stayed home for the New Year to keep the momentum going and monitor any updates.
According to an interview, Hwang’s efforts had not been in vain, as she has been able to confirm the successful reunification or location of around 10 cats and at least 20-25 dogs. She has apparently been in awe of the generosity of people at this crucial time.
Another group actively working towards the recovery and reunification of lost pets is the Boulder County Fire Lost & Found Pets Facebook page which contains over 20,500 members. The group consists of pet owners, shelters, veterinary practises, and community members sharing information and updates that could help towards the safe return of pets to their families.
Gradually Creasey was able to obtain information about the missing pups from Dog Tag. Some had apparently been retrieved by animal control and taken to the Boulder humane society. Some people had managed to get to the boarding facility to rescue the remaining dogs inside. One owner came to collect their dog immediately after flying home to look for them after finding out the pup had been found at the facility. Another dog had safely found shelter near Costco.
Creasey later received word that Dexter, Thomson’s dog, alongside another dog named Poppy, had been found. She collected the dogs immediately, whilst notifying the owners that they had been located and rescued. Aside from being covered in soot and smoke, suffering from dehydration, and being rather badly shaken by the experience, the two dogs were in good remarkably health.
Creasey took the two dogs home, fed, watered, and bathed them and kept them overnight to monitor them. The dogs apparently would not leave her side. They were then collected by friends and family the following morning.
After 15 hours of non-stop searching, all 40 boarding facility dogs were successfully found and reunited with their families and owners. Despite the lack of sleep, Creasey was extremely happy to have found all of the missing dogs safe and unharmed.
Thomson expressed his gratitude to Creasey and the Dog Tag company owner for their efforts in saving Dexter, who had been initially apprehensive when he was being collected, however upon realizing who his collectors were was ecstatic to see his family. The Thomson family was also thrilled to discover that they had been lucky enough to still have their home in one piece following the Marshall blaze.