NVADG was started in the late 1990’s by then-firefighter John Maretti after wildfires killed two people who wouldn’t evacuate without their animals. A firefighter was seriously burned trying to save one of the pet-owners.
The early organization was supported by members of Calfire, Sheriff’s office, Animal Control, Butte County Board of Supervisors and the county office of emergency management. They all recognized human safety during a disaster would be improved if there was care for animals.
The community, too, assisted with funds and materials for the start-up costs. Approval of NVADG was based on strictly following emergency protocols, being fully trained and equipped, just like the professional. That called for professional-grade PPEs, radios, training and equipment.
In 2002, the Butte County Board of Supervisors signed a formal MOU with NVADG to be called out when a circumstance was more than what could be handled by Animal Control alone. By then the volunteers had worked for three years to meet emergency response training and equipment requirements.
For the first decade there was no permanent warehouse, headquarters or shelter. Volunteers stored trailers and equipment, businesses donated meeting space and shelters were set up on the fly. Every year the all-volunteer group would divide up the work of training, equipment care and administrative duties. Thanks to core dedicated volunteers, the organization survived and thrived.
In an ordinary year, NVADG would be called on to evacuate and shelter for two or three fires. In 2008, the huge Humboldt and Butte Lightning fires tested the volunteer response with six weeks of fires and evacuations. Hundreds of animals were sheltered in temporary quarters or “sheltered in place” in their homes and pastures, awaiting the lifting of evacuation orders.
The land got dryer and fires got bigger. NVADG rented warehouse space and secured more permanent animal shelters for small and large animals. In 2017 the year kicked off with the evacuation of the southern third of Butte County due to the potential Oroville Dam spillway collapse. By the end of the 2017, NVADG had responded to nine evacuations. The following year, in 2018, NVADG spent 78 days caring for over 10.000 animals during the Camp Fire.
At this time, NVADG has over 350 active volunteers and agreements with many Community Animal Response Teams for mutual aid. Due to the increased size of fires and need for response, we have hired an Executive Director to manage training, resources, and administration. We look forward to having our own training room, warehouse, and trailer parking in Chico sometime in 2022.
The reason NVADG exists today is the same reason it was started back in 1998. We have dedicated volunteers who lead, train, manage equipment, and give hundreds of hours to the care of animals during evacuations. We help people by helping their animals during a disaster.