Updated: Dec 2, 2018
Gina Shapiro, Santa Barbara, CA
The Thomas fire had a huge impact on people’s homes, businesses, families, and emotions. Followed by a deadly debris flow in its aftermath, there was not one person who didn’t feel the terrible sadness of these events. However, it was not only humans that were affected. When a wildfire ravages an area, the wildlife is also severely impacted. Many animals suffer severe in injuries and die from smoke inhalation of from the flames as they attempt to escape (Morris). Mammals endure burned paws from running away from the flames.
On December 22, a young mountain lion was found in Santa Paula with severely burned paws from the Thomas Fire. He was taken to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and, interestingly, had his paws covered with fish skin to help the injuries, as this technique has been known to speed up the healing process of burns (Tschopp referencing CDFW).
Possibly the worst impact of wildfires is the devastating loss of habitat for years to come. It takes many years for a burn zone to completely recover and during this time animals struggle to survive. Morris states that wildfires destroy nests and demolish trees and chaparral; natural habitats which are vital for the survival of many animals. Thus, the animals are forced to relocate which ultimately causes a population decline as they struggle to find adequate resources. Fires also dry out water holes and pollute streams, increasing disease as animals compete for a smaller amount of water (Morris).
Although we cannot prevent the lasting loss of habitat or the other negative impacts on wildlife, there are measures we can take to help animals during and after a fire. Putting out water in your yard helps keep animals on the run hydrated. Here are some organizations you can donate to to help wildlife affected by the Thomas Fire:
A barn owl rescued by the Ojai Raptor Center
Update: June 2018
Here an example of the habitat loss from the Thomas Fire can be easily seen. Six months after the fire, Chief Peak is still almost completely barren and not able to sustain animals that once relied on its resources.