West Kelowna  

Co-founder of Lend A Paw Pet Food Foundation doing what she can despite being among the McDougall Creek wildfire evacuees

Lending a paw to evacuees

Harmonie Basso was trying to get back to Kelowna to be with her mom and to be on the ground to help fire evacuees with pets and livestock.

Basso, who is one of the co-founders of Lend A Paw Pet Food Foundation, is among the people who were forced out of their homes Thursday when an evacuation order was issued for her property on Parkinson Road in West Kelowna, as the McDougall Creek wildfire blew up into a monster, driven by strong winds.

“We had already prepared because I work closely with ALERT (Animal Lifeline Emergency Response Team). Deb in the morning actually called me and told me that, in her opinion, I should have everything ready to go in the truck and not leave the house unless I was taking my pets with me. And she was absolutely right,” Basso told Castanet in an interview Friday from Nakusp, where her RV is parked on family property.

She says as soon as they got the word to go they left right away. However, her mother is battling cancer and Basso was planning to return to the Central Okanagan Friday to be with her and to continue to coordinate food supplies for evacuees’ pets. She says ALERT can also help get stranded animals out.

“So, if anyone was unable to bring their pets when they evacuated, they can call ALERT (250-809-7152) and they can coordinate getting in and getting their pets for them. They also can coordinate if anyone has large animals that need to be moved, like horses, goats.”

Lend A Paw feeds about 25,000 meals to pets in need on a regular basis. Right now volunteers are busy ensuring Emergency Support Services (ESS) centres are stocked with food and other supplies.

“I’ve asked a couple volunteers to go pick up litter pans. We hear not many people left with their litter box, I mean why would you? So, litter pans, beds, things that get forgotten,” adds Basso, who notes no one knows right now how long they are going to be out.

As of Friday morning, her house appeared to have escaped the flames but she, like many, many others is anxiously watching the fire. “I said to my husband, I felt awful saying like, I just need the wind to shift. And then I said, but then that’s taking out a different neighbourhood and that’s not fair either. I just want it to stop, is what I want it to do.”

The evacuation from her neighbourhood went smoothly on Thursday afternoon.

“The firefighters are doing an amazing job. We know that lots of them that are working it are probably people who live in the areas that they’re fighting too. That can’t be easy.”

Basso says anyone who wants to help can make a donation through the Lend A Paw website or drop off food, beds and other pet necessities at the two Kelowna locations of Tail Blazers.

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