From Out of the Ashes
If you sat spellbound watching the news as the devastating wildfire raced into the High Desert, you were most likely wondering how any thing could survive.
The good news is that many homes and ranches in the Oak Hills and Phelan areas were spared. And where fire encroached deeper into the neighborhoods, fire fighting units deployed men and equipment to stand fast against the blast furnace-like flames. One critical non-profit business that I wondered about was Forever Wild Exotic Animal Sanctuary — their close proximity to the fire and ash.
Where would they go?
Where would they take all of these large creatures, wild, and cared-for birds and reptiles? Although the staff didn’t say, they do have an extensive emergency plan. Fortunately, they didn’t need it.
Was the place okay? To answer that question my husband and I went there to celebrate his birthday and get a closer look. What we found was a scorched desert not more than 500 feet from the facility. So close that the acrid smell of scorched brush still lingers in the air. As we toured the grounds, we couldn’t help but notice the crates and portable carriers held in a side pen waiting for the inevitable.
It never happened. Firemen had battled the attack from destroying anything there and kept the neighborhood safe, which included the sanctuary.
I asked a few volunteers who work the facility whether they were ready to run. Most just nodded and agreed it would have been a big job, but they were ready. It’s hard to imagine how many volunteers it would take to move so many exotics. The smoke and ash alone had been making my lungs suffer over 40 miles away; it was hard to believe all the animals at the sanctuary had no lasting effects. Feeding time for daytime animals was in full swing and everyone had hardy appetites.
The Forever Wild Exotic Animal Sanctuary is alive and well, doors open, and ready for visitors. It’s a great little compound with gates and cross fencing, plenty of space to walk, and full-view cages. The grounds are clear, the cages clean, and the weather is on a cooling trend — just right for a visit to the High Desert’s Forever Wild family of critters.
PLEASE NOTE: All hours are subject to change, call ahead to confirm. (760) 490-3338.
Travel Phelan Road west past Tumbleweed Road and watch for signs heading south to 8545 Buttemere Rd, Phelan, CA 92371. Open 10-5 seven days a week.