300 rush to save animals as fire bears down on shelter

Top News | Erin Chan 27 Oct 2020

Nearly 300 people heeded an online call for volunteers and rushed to rescue around 180 cats and dogs in a Pat Heung animal shelter that was on the verge of being engulfed by a hill fire overnight.

During the evacuation some of the animals suffered from incontinence and vomiting due to the dense smoke.

The fire, which first broke out on Saturday afternoon at the Kai Kung Leng mountain range in Lam Tsuen Country Park in the Pat Heung area of Yuen Long, spread to another mountain range some 100 meters from the 3,000-square-foot shelter in Tai Kong Po on Sunday night.

It was among 104 hill fires reported to the Fire Services Department from Sunday to 5pm yesterday amid a yellow fire danger warning. Hill fires also erupted in Tuen Mun, Mai Po, Tai Po, Ma On Shan and Sha Tau Kok, but was later put out by firemen.

The Pat Heung fire had been largely put out by 8.51am yesterday after over 40 hours.

Some 300 volunteers arrived at the Big Tree Animal Sanctuary and Adoption Center following a Facebook post about the fire past midnight yesterday.

Firemen with water jets were called to the scene after residents of Tai Kong Po reported a blaze on the mountain range 500 meters away from the residential area at around 11pm on Sunday.

One volunteer was seen driving a 5.5-tonne truck to assist in the evacuation of around 150 dogs and 30 cats.

They first took the cats away in kennels to the house of a volunteer in Tai Tong near Tai Kong Po.

Some of the dogs were taken to the warehouse of a pet store 300 meters away from the animal shelter.

At 4am yesterday, all the cats had been evacuated and the remaining 40 dogs were able to stay in the shelter. By 6am, all the animals had been returned to the shelter.

A volunteer nicknamed Jojo said that there were only four volunteers inside the shelter as the fire approached.

"Since there were not enough kennels inside the shelter, the cats and dogs could not be evacuated quickly," she said.

She said that this was a first for the animals in the shelter, which has been operating for 20 years.

"The fire was really aggressive and we were helpless and I was worried no one would come to our rescue [despite the online call]," she said.

"But it turned out that a lot of people came to help us I was really moved by the gesture.

"Hongkongers are amazing."

Another volunteer, Cheng, who lives in Sheung Shui, said he first learned about the call for assistance from social media and drove to the shelter with other volunteers.

Meanwhile, a Yuen Long resident who returned home from Europe found the roof of his village house covered in black ash from the fires.

"I went to the roof to breathe some fresh mountain air after three long, challenging and exhausting flights home and a night in quarantine," he said.

"But I only found piles of filthy ash swirling around."


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