Birds and More Corner Logo
News & Events from Birds & More

Return HomeRead About Karen AllenOur Store InformationMeet Our Babies!Our ServicesNews and Events Just for You!We Have Many Products for Your Feathery Kids!Here's How to Order!Avian and Exotic Animal Hospital, Hawthorne, CaliforniaKeep Your Bird Safe!Do's and Dont's of Bird OwnershipHelpful Information for All of Your Pets!Learn About Lost Birds and Species Preservation!Visit Bird Societies from Around the World!Visit Our Bird Link PartnersVisit Non-Bird Related LinksLearn About Animal Rescue and PreservationLearn About Bird Research
Send Email to Karen
Email Karen







Dear Friends.....This is VERY long but please read it carefully.....We, both human and the birds we love are FINE but need your help for the future....

"Seventy-two Hours"
Sybil Erden - May 25-28, 2005

The Oasis Sanctuary is a life-care facility established to care for captive exotic birds, mostly parrots. There are 400+ birds plus 50 other farmed and domestic animals, as well as 8 human animals, who call the Sanctuary home. The Oasis Sanctuary is located in rural southeastern Arizona.

Wednesday night May 25th 2005 was one of the most frightening nights of my life, a night no one at The Oasis will ever forget.

A corner of the property next door to the Oasis --- a foreclosed store called Sun Station, located on the 40 acres adjacent to our 72 acres--- either caught or was set on fire. I became aware of the fire when I went outside at 9:50 PM and saw the 50+ foot tall plume of fire towering over the trees. It was mind boggling.... an orange glow, soundless, mindless, reaching into the heavens, sparkling with embers.

My worst nightmare was realized --- Fire.

I called 911 to get the fire department out here before doing anything else, but was told they had already been notified and were on their way. But being on "their way" is a relative term out here in the rural Southwest.

Cascabel has a volunteer Fire Department ("VFD") and the members are individually notified, called and rounded up. They have one truck and a water tanker. The other local fire departments (other than the State Land Department or Forestry Service) are also VFDs. The closest, in St. David, is 45 minutes away once deployed. The next closest and best outfitted is in Mescal, about an hour away. Tombstone is an almost two hour drive.

"On their way" leaves you "on your own" for quite some time out here.

After calling 911, I called (and probably awakened) two of Oasis Staff members, Rick and Karen Van Tuyl. I spoke to Rick and assessed him of the situation and asked to call the Staff. Within five minutes Rick, Karen, Nancy Stephens, Bill Fonner (who has been off due to illness) Emily Moddelmog and Keith Cliver were all in the field ready to work.

I called TJ (Oasis Associate Director, my partner)....who was in Phoenix, where he had taken a Blue and Gold named Amos to our veterinarian for surgery the following day. (Amos remained, had surgery, and was cared for by Tom and RuthAnn LaRue, our foster/intake home in the Phoenix area.) TJ had just arrived in Phoenix just four hours earlier after a 3-hour drive up there. He made it back to the Sanctuary in 2.5 hours...a new NASCAR record….

Neighbors and nearby friends came to help...Firefighters - local Cascabel fire department volunteers and others from as far away as Mescal, St. David, Tombstone and the State came to fight the fire and protect the property. We were fortunate...the air was humid and there was no wind. The strong breezes of earlier in the day had died down. We have a wide "wash" (a dry creek) which bi-sects our property. It separated us from the fire. The fire trucks came down the wash and were able to fight the blaze, and kept it from "jumping" to the side of our property where the birds, other animals, homes and buildings are.

Once the staff was working, I called TARA (Tucson Avian Rescue and Adoption) and woke Director Judy Ray and her family. She and Sherri Brovas (one of TARA's co-founders) called, woke and then rounded up people and soon four trucks and cars were on their way from Tucson (1½ hours away).

As I moved around the property, collecting supplies and rounding up animals, when I would go to TJ's house and the guest house, I was within two city blocks of the fire. The fire was so hot and large that even at an one-eighth of a mile I felt the heat blast! It literally was as warm as standing next to a large bon-fire.

The Evacuation plans we had been working on were implemented. Staff took all trucks and carts and moved carriers into the bird building and field. Birds indoors were captured and crated first as I feared a power outage if power lines burned. More cages/carriers were taken out of the storage unit and arranged near the outdoor aviaries and enclosures. Feeder doors were wired shut, carriers secured, etc.

Neighbors soaked the areas around buildings. I rounded up the cats and dogs....made sure the horses, cows and other four-leggers were ok. Tish and John Heistadt from Forever Home Donkey Rescue about 12 miles down the road) came with their van and were in charge of getting the large animals to safety.

At 1:30 AM we were told we could stand down – that, at least for now, the fire was "contained" and our evacuation was not longer imminent. I decided to keep things in the ready until the fire was out... We left crated birds and other animals in their carriers overnight. Trucks and vans were on standby. Materials for evacuation left where they were…. We called the TARA crew on their cell phones and they turned back before arriving with the understanding that they were available should things become worse. Tom Trebeski, who is our Webmaster as well as a TARA and Oasis Volunteer had no cell phone, He arrived around 1:30 AM and spent the night here, sleeping in our small guest house.

With our friends' help we could have managed to get out with all the birds.... Stressed and shaken --- but we would have made it through.

TJ and a neighbor Jason (who helped us here while his girlfriend Kristina hosed down their home across the road and took care of their animals) went to look at the fire area around 1:30 AM – it had crossed onto and burned some of our property...but no buildings or structures on either property were damaged.

Most importantly our animals are safe.

It is 3:20 AM and we are finally settling down for the night... However, the firefighters are still working at their tasks. It was smoky but most of the smoke stayed clear of the birds...

At 4 AM TJ finally went home and to bed. Around 5 AM, as the sun rose and the sky turned silver and hopeful, I hiked down the wash to the firefighters. The majority of the blaze was out. Hot spots remained and were being dealt with by a few remaining volunteers.

Shortly before 7 AM I kicked off my shoes and went to bed, fully clothed. I napped for two hours…

Staff members, who had worked until almost 2 AM, and one who had not been to sleep yet, showed up for work at 7AM. I told them to go home after feeding and call it a day.

Later that afternoon TJ and I went into Benson (the closest town, 40 minutes away) to pick up supplies for the birds and other critters. He and I were supposed to go into Tucson (an hour and a half drive) for supplies and to pick up a bird at the airport at 9:30 PM but I just did not feel comfortable having both of us gone. My gut said not to be gone long. It was just a feeling....

Staff members Keith and Emily had a vet appointment for a cat in Tucson. I "bribed" them with a dinner to stay in town and get the bird...Nancy loaned them her cell phone so that they would have access if there was any further trouble.

TJ and I got back to The Oasis at 6:30 PM. It had become quite windy and we discussed how lucky we had been that it had not been like this the night before....

Bill met us near my house. He told us that he and Nancy and the Van Tuyls had gone down to see where the fire had been...and found that no one was there any more ...and that there were hot spots (small fires in the debris of trees) still left.

Bill, TJ and I drove down the wash in our wonderful, donated, 4-wheel drive 1990 Isuzu and found the winds fanning the smoking hotspots back up into fires. Many fires were in tall, 30 foot high trees which were burning on the inside and having flame and sparks flying out the tops onto unburned areas of dry grass.

This was NOT good.

The men got shovels and the water sprayers we use to spray down the birds and got to work. I called the fire department ...and their line was busy (our VFD does not have call waiting!!!) I called 911.

Jason showed up to take Kristina (his girlfriend, with her leg in a cast) to see the fire site....They saw what was happening and he ran home to get more tools. Jason also grabbed another neighbor, Daniel, and enlisted him into the work force.

I took Kristina home and called 911 again. I called Nancy and asked her to stay on the phone trying to reach Les, the fire-chief of the Cascabel VFD. She finally got through...

I found and borrowed a number of flashlights. Karen and Rick loaned us walkie-talkies. (A friend of The Oasis has now sent us a 4 pack that Motorola makes to help with communication on site and in emergencies.)

It took until 8:30 for the fire departments from Cascabel and Mescal to arrive. The crew from Mescal could not find us due to some miscommunication with the dispatcher. When the firemen arrived our guys had put 90 percent of the fire out. They were all were very apologetic about the situation, and pleased with the good job Oasis had done.

Bill, TJ and Jason are the heroes of the evening….

The next day the guys, and Keith and Emily who were on their day off, went down at several points during the morning and afternoon, to wet down and break up a few remaining and rekindling hot spots.

The afternoon of the 27th was cloudy and the breeze picked up. The temperature dropped and at 3 PM the rain began. It rained steadily until 8 PM. I kept walking outside and getting wet. We all agreed that we had never been so happy to be so soggy!

There no doubt are things we will need to improve, and many things we will need to purchase to upgrade our ability to bring the over 450 animals and humans who call Oasis home to safety. From our end Staff will meet, note what we learned... devise an even better, quicker way of handling this sort of an emergency situation.

There are fire-breaks to create, brush to be cleared. Trailers to be stocked and refurbished. Work is ahead of us…but now we know that with a few hours of time we…with the help of the wonderful people we call Friends of Thhe Oasis, we can do this….

A couple of years ago we asked for and were able to purchase three trailers…a large bird evacuation trailer which we have beeen refurbishing, a smaller trailer which needs upgrading and will also be used to move the birds, as well as a small human travel trailer which will hold supplies and more animals.

It is incredible recognizing the number of things we need to keep on hand, including duplication of many items used daily. Some things we thought we had enough of we found to be in short supply….sound carriers, hand tools, emergency medical supplies for animals and humans (bandages for bird bites, as an example!) We need to stock one of the trailers with bins of food for the animals, water, extra towels, bowls, spare flashlights and spare batteries, emergency lights, ladders, bird nets…. There is more!

We are now suggesting that, especially during fire season (which runs through September,) each staff member will have a small duffel with their own emergency stuff---a couple changes of clothes, another pair of shoes, medicines, makeup and/or shaving goods, shampoo and toiletries, favorite photos, jewelry and mementos, as well as copies of insurance and other important papers.

This was one hell of a fire drill...a real wake-up call.

The fire season looms ahead – and this is only May....

The morning after the fire, as dawn's first rays lit the sky, in the bird field, Jasmine our beautiful little Double Yellow head began to sing: "Oh what a beautiful morning…."

It was.

Note: There is work to be done and additional supplies needed to insure the safety of the Birds at The Oasis Sanctuary in case of further emergency, This is going to be costly. Please visit our website to see what supplies we need that you might have ….or you can make a donation on line or contact Oasis office manager Charlotte Fox at 602-863-1543.

Thank you in advance for your help!

Back to the main News & Events page!






Home | About Karen | About Us | Animal Rescue | Avian Hospital | Bird Links | Bird Rescue
Bird Societies | Events | Health Tips | Health Warnings | News | Our Birds | Ordering
Other Links | Our Products | Our Services | Pet Info | Research
Take Action

A Taz Production
Copyright ©1999-2015
All Rights Reserved