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Quesnel SPCA evacuated due to nearby structure fire

Animals were sent to other shelters after an unoccupied girl guides cabin caught fire on July 20
A Bylaw officer looks onto the girl guides cabin in Quesnel. The cabin caught fire, forcing an evacuation of the Quesnel BCSPCA shelter. (Karen Powell Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)

The BC SPCA branch in Quesnel is returning to normal after a nearby structure fire forced them to evacuate.

The Quesnel Volunteer Fire Department was called to the Girl Guides Little Big Hill cabin on the morning of Tuesday, July 20.

“It’s a little scary when you’ve got that many animals, you look up and you see a column of smoke coming from 100 metres beside your building,” shelter manager Colby O’Flynn said. “It was a hectic day for sure.”

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On the advice of the RCMP, the SPCA began evacuating their animals. O’Flynn said while evacuating dogs is relatively easy, cats are another story.

“We’d be just looking at opening cages and letting animals go,” O’Flynn said of a potential emergency evacuation.

Even as firefighters quickly extinguished the blaze, the potential for an overnight flare-up meant the SPCA decided to evacuate all of their animals up for adoption.

“Because of the number of animals we had, and the amount of time it would take to evacuate everyone, if that fire was to have spread to the bush around the area, (police and RCMP) advised it was a good idea to keep everyone safe,” O’Flynn said. “If there’s nobody on the property and that thing lit up, when you have 35 cats in the shelter it takes quite a while to get everybody boxed up, packaged and into a van.”

The fire provided a chance for the SPCA to practise their proper evacuation procedure. Each animal has a box for transport. Staff were able to evacuate the entire shelter by 11 p.m. that night.

The animals were sent to other locations, as the Quesnel shelter takes in more animals than they are able to adopt. With wildfires straining the number of shelter spaces, O’Flynn said it was a challenge.

“We’re back to normal business here,” she said. “We’ll just restart with new animals coming in and go from there. I hope nothing like this happens again.”

Quesnel Fire Chief Ron Richert said the cause of the fire was under investigation, and the cabin received some minor wall and smoke damage.

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