Barry R. Kirshner Wildlife Foundation remains unharmed after Camp Fire


The Barry R. Kirshner Wildlife Foundation remains undamaged after being threatened by the Camp Fire. Photo credit: Grant Schmieding

Smoke filled the air as the fire burned surrounding areas, under a mile from the property. Tarps and sheets were placed over enclosures to keep the smoke out.

It’s no easy task evacuating lions and tigers.

Like much of Butte County, the Barry R. Kirshner Wildlife Foundation—which houses a wide variety of exotic wildlife—faced a serious threat during the Camp Fire. The foundation was prepared with an evacuation plan and worked long hours to keep things running during the crisis. It also provided a tremendous amount of aid to injured and displaced animals after the fire.

“The fire was around us,” said Roberta Kirshner, the owner and director of the foundation.

With the area under evacuation orders, Kirshner—who was well prepared for a disaster of this nature—decided to stay with the animals.

“They had asked us to evacuate and I stayed with them,” she said.

Armed with large tanks of water, tarps and sheets, Kirshner and any volunteers that were allowed on the premises worked over 12 hours a day to keep the animals comfortable and clean. The foundation was also prepared with 11 trucks and trailers to quickly move the animals to alternate locations if things got too dangerous.

Camp Fire damage just up Pentz Road, less than a mile from the Kirshner Wildlife Foundation. Photo credit: Grant Schmieding

Kirshner cleaned each animal’s enclosure two times a day and made sure all the grass on the property remained properly mowed down. She also covered the enclosures with tarps and blankets to improve the air quality.

“We were fortunate, but we were prepared,” she said.

After the fire, the foundation took in over 240 injured and displaced animals—most of which were birds. The foundation took in over 200 birds, losing only 11. It also provided care to deer, possums, raccoons, skunks and a variety of other native animals.

Having lived in Northern California for so long, Kirshner has always attempted to be as prepared as possible for disasters like the Camp Fire.

“We know this is a fire area, and so we’ve always had that in the back of our mind,” she said, looking back.

Grant Schmieding can be reached at [email protected] or @G_Schmieding on Twitter.