Rescue workers retrieving pets in aftermath of Canadian wildfire

Sun May 8, 2016 1:53pm EDT
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By Liz Hampton

WANDERING RIVER, Alberta (Reuters) - Emergency workers in Alberta are joining a grassroots effort to rescue pets trapped in homes after a massive wildfire forced their owners to leave without them.

Kevin Wonitowy, a locksmith for 20 years, said he entered the city of Fort McMurray on Saturday to pick the locks of homes with pets, after a request from the local emergency management team.

The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, which oversees Fort McMurray, said on its website that it was sending teams to rescue pets at their owners' request but noted the use of a locksmith would be a last resort.

Wonitowy said he would be needed for three to four days in the nearly empty city that previously housed 88,000. He will open doors for emergency workers who will take the pets to shelters.

Wood Buffalo has said it is not doing interviews, and calls to officials went unanswered.

Fort McMurray was evacuated with little warning on Tuesday, with residents carrying so few possessions that a nearby community set up a used-clothing station for them.

Access has since been restricted, and many owners who abandoned their pets longed to reunite with them, calling on animal shelters and appealing for information online.

Just days after the evacuation, some residents entered the city after they said they obtained permission from local authorities.   Continued...

Bryan Jones holds onto a dog he saved from the raging wildfires after leaving Fort McMurray and assembling in Wandering River on May 6, 2016. REUTERS/Topher Seguin