Acton sanctuaries Shambala and Animal Acres have different strategies for dealing with Station fire
Although the Station fire, which doubled in size to 85,000 acres overnight, has reached the doorstep of the Shambala big cat sanctuary in Acton, the resident lions, tigers and other animals are (hopefully) staying put. Chris Gallucci, Shambala's vice president of operations, told our colleagues at L.A. Now that the staff at the sanctuary "have everything to fight fires on this property" and that they even perform elaborate fire drills every six weeks to ready themselves for an event like the Station fire. From L.A. Now:
The preserve has dozens of steel evacuation crates ready to go in case the 64 big cats need to be moved. It also has equipment to beat back flames: A 22,000-gallon water tank, a lake and a complete fire road around the 80-acre site, Gallucci said.
Evacuating 64 big cats could clog Soledad Canyon Road, the only road that runs through the canyon area, Gallucci said.
"If you just panic and run, you're not being too professional," he said. "Dealing with exotic animals is completely different. You can't put the public at risk. We don't want to have the fire department and police department aiding us when they're trying to protect other people."
Shambala was founded by actress Tippi Hedren and is home to two of Michael Jackson's former pet tigers, Thriller and Sabu. Hedren remained at the preserve throughout the weekend and this morning was talking with firefighters working nearby and monitoring the fire, Gallucci said.
Interestingly, Gallucci noted that the cats aren't frightened of the flames and smoke, adding that one lion was even sunning itself as he spoke.
Elsewhere in Acton, the Animal Acres sanctuary, which is home to more than 150 rescued farm animals, has opted to evacuate, according to an e-mail sent to supporters. In the e-mail, Animal Acres founder Lorri Houston wrote that the sanctuary had taken measures to facilitate a speedy removal of their resident cows, pigs, turkeys and other animals following wildfires that threatened Southern California in 2007. Since then, staff have secured an emergency evacuation center for the animals, an additional livestock trailer and other materials needed to get the animals out quickly.
-- Lindsay Barnett
Photo: Alexander, a 450-pound Bengal tiger, at the Shambala Preserve in Acton. Credit: Kevork Djansezian / Associated Press