For several days now, dangerous wildfires have burned through northern California, causing more than 20,000 people to evacuate and the loss of at least 23 lives. When the fires made their way towards Safari West, a wildlife preserve and resort in Santa Rosa, California, earlier this week, owner Peter Lang was determined to keep the droves of animals at his sanctuary safe.
While the flames engulfed the surrounding area, Peter, 77, was forced to choose between saving his family’s home or staying with the 1,000-plus animals at his 400-acre preserve, according to The Press Democrat. He opted to spend the entire night trying to protect the animals while his house, just a half-mile away, was destroyed.
“I have a thousand souls I’m responsible for,” he told The Press Democrat. “It wasn’t even a decision. This is what I had to do.” While most of the homes nearby and some small parts of the animal sanctuary were scorched, miraculously, the animals weren’t harmed. “I did not lose a single animal,” he said. “It is amazing.”
Since the wildfires began, Safari West has issued several updates through its Facebook page. Staff members are working around the clock to protect the many cheetahs, giraffes, zebras, monkeys, and other animals on the grounds, according to the latest message, which was published last night. “The animals are safe, secure, and surprisingly relaxed considering the situation,” the preserve wrote. “Our crews worked throughout the day to tend to the animals and bolster defenses around the preserve. This fire is far from contained and CalFire anticipates critical conditions to continue.”
Firefighters visited the sanctuary to put out several small fires on Monday, according to SF Gate. And nearby staff members have been on call to assist with evacuations and animal care all week. The preserve is now urging visitors and animals lovers to donate to organizations that will help all those affected by the fires. You can make donations to help northern California fire victims through Go Fund Me.