PUEBLO — On Sunday afternoon, a 20-acre fire in Pueblo forced evacuations including the evacuation of Paws for Life, a local animal shelter. The cause of the fire, which has been named the ‘Paws’ Fire is still unknown Monday afternoon.
When the fire began quickly spreading, the animals were transported to the State Fairgrounds for safety. They were brought back to Paws for Life around 7 o’clock Sunday evening.
News5 spoke to Paws for Life, who want to thank the community for their quick response and support. Staff and volunteers said the community wasted no time helping animals get to safety and fed food, as people showed up by the dozens to the shelter and the fairgrounds.
Kristina Gil-Perez, a kennel tech at Paws for Life, said Sunday turned into a busy shift and quick jump to action when they got the news about the evacuation.
“We got word from our manager, Isabel. She told us hey, ‘there’s a fire kind of headed our way.’ Within a couple of minutes after that, it's get ready for evacuation,” said Gil-Perez. “We ran upstairs and started getting our kennels, loading up dogs, putting on harnesses. There's people showing up, communities are showing up, we just do what we can, get food ready, blankets ready. Anything we needed, and was handed to us within seconds we had it.”
Gil-Perez says the organization has an emergency evacuation plan that they’ve gone over in drills and meetings, and it was never put into use until now.
“We had a meeting about it before, we just never knew when it was actually going to happen to us. So we had a plan, and yesterday we just went with our plan,” said Gil-Perez.
Thanks to the plan, all of the early 60 animals including 30 dogs and 30 cats, were safely transported to the State Fairgrounds in about an hour.
“Our staff has been trained and they've run drills of getting the animals out, and they just got quickly into position and they did an amazing job getting everybody out, getting everybody in harnesses, getting leashes on them,” said Kim Alfonso, who’s been a volunteer at the organization for nearly five years. “There's always lessons to be learned, but in the situation in the emergency that it was, it went great.
She says during the evacuation, the animals could sense something was going on, and smell the smoke in the air, but that overall, things went smooth.
“I do feel like that it was traumatic for all of them was traumatic for all of us and the people that volunteered but animals are very resilient,” said Alfonso.
Last night when the animals were returned to their kennels, staff said they were tired and relieved.
“This morning, we walked in, and usually the dogs are happy to see us and greet us, and they're barking and tails are wagging, and we walk in this morning and everybody's just laying on their bed still and really exhausted like we were,” said Gil-Perez.
The effort was made easier because the community helped by bringing in water, dog food, crates, and a little bit of comfort and love during a stressful time.
“The community came together helped us get done what we needed. And it's amazing how the love of animals brings people together,” said Alfonso.
The Paws Fire is 100% contained. Crews with the Pueblo Fire Department remained on scene all day Monday to monitor hot spots. There will also be a crew in the evening and overnight to keep an eye on things.