Before a Longmont-based animal search and rescue team returned home from helping in the aftermath of Texas storms, they were alerted that they’d be dispatched to another disaster expected by the end of the week.
Code 3 Associates staffer Jim Boller said team members for the nonprofit demobilized Monday only to be formally requested Wednesday by Florida, in the path of Hurricane Irma.
“It’s part of what we do,” Boller said. “This isn’t the first time we’ve had back-to-back events as far as hurricanes or whatever we’ve responded to. Our hearts go out to the residents and the victims of these areas and those that are most affected.”
In anticipation of Irma, two members in Longmont will leave Saturday to pre-stage in Atlanta, Ga., where they will meet up with up to about 30 other volunteers coming from their homes across the U.S.
They will be equipped with the Big Animal Rescue Truck, an 82-foot tractor trailer that carries a pickup truck, several boats and motors, rescue gear and personal protective and operational equipment to sustain them for up to 10 days.
Boller said they could also be dispatched to help in North Carolina, South Carolina, Mississippi and Alabama — the other states bracing for impact.
The team of volunteers and paid staff will rescue as many animals as they can, Boller said, adding that he expects to rescue a lot of injured wildlife in addition to domestic animals.
“We know that these animals are part of people’s families,” he said. “The animals are part of their life, too, and getting them back to them reduces their stress, reduces the animals’ stress and gives them a little bit of normalcy.”
During their mission in Houston following Hurricane and Tropical Storm Harvey, Boller was part of the team that saved about 30 dogs and 30 cats from Galveston Island. He said a yellow-nosed albatross — a large seabird — with an injured wing and a 150-pound mastiff were also saved during the 10-day mission.
“The victims of these tremendous storms and events are so grateful for people coming in and knowing people care about the animals,” he said.
Boller, who has worked for various animal welfare groups for 30 years, said being in the Houston area was reminiscent of his deployment after Hurricane Ike hit Texas, Cuba and the Bahamas in 2008.
“There’s certain things that stick with you over the years, but there’s a lot of incidents that start to run together,” he said. “We try not to focus on the devastation. We try and focus on our jobs. Otherwise our anxiety and stress levels rise.”