All About Animals: Pink Ribbons

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Late July, of course it was hot here in Shasta County. That was to be expected. But it was more than just hot – it was too hot. Temperatures had been soaring well above 100º for several weeks. Everything was dry – too dry.

That day was no exception. As usual, I was out tending to the animals when I heard our fire scanner sing out. I headed for the house, a feeling of dread washing over me. It announced a vegetation fire near French Gulch at Carr Power House. Soon an update informed us that it had quickly grown from 10 acres to 50 acres, 100 acres, then 300, moving at a high rate of speed, now spreading out of control.

It was heading for Whiskeytown Lake, Old Shasta, and threatening areas surrounding Redding. A mountain ridge separated us from that fast moving inferno. By late afternoon the news came that it was heading our way….

I watched as he drove slowly down our little winding road. I knew that he would be coming. He stepped out of his patrol car, pink ribbons in his hand. He looked at me solemnly. He told us that we should evacuate. He knew that we wouldn’t – that we couldn’t. He gave us an understanding look as he tied those pink ribbons on the gate, indicating that we had been warned of the approaching fire. Then he slowly drove away.

Our sanctuary is home to over 300 rescued animals. Evacuation is not an option. We were well versed in wildland fires. Informational fire meetings are held here at the farm each spring. We know the importance of being prepared. Our 0land had been well cleared, offering an abundance of defensible space. 5000 gallons of gravity flow water in tanks sit on the hill above the barn. Rainbirds are on every building and all have metal roofs, keeping aviaries and kennels safe. We were confident that we had done all that we could to make sure that our home, land and animals would be safe. Now we would wait, watch and pray.

The skies grew darker, ash began to fall like snowflakes, covering the farm. Borate planes flew overhead. The thick smell of smoke in the air made it hard to breathe. My dogs clung to me like Velcro. The animals, sensing the danger, looked to me for reassurance. Stay calm – stay calm, I kept thinking. Bob would let me know when to panic.

Those pink ribbons swaying on the gate kept me informed as to which way the wind was carrying the fire. Sheriff’s deputies, our friends from CalFire, and officers from Fish and Wildlife stopped in often to update us as to how far the Carr Fire had advanced. By that first night, it had not yet jumped Clear Creek Road. We were still safe at that point.

I thought of our friends who were in the path of this unbelievably destructive inferno who no doubt were packing and preparing to evacuate. Those pink ribbons on the gate reminded me that this was just the beginning.

The calls started coming, concerned friends checking on our safety, others with offers of help. My son, John, and granddaughter, Chelsee, so far away in Michigan, called every hour. Their voices cracked as they said “Please stay safe; we love you”. My brother, Joe and his wife, Candace in North Carolina, concern evident in their voices. They were all glued to the news channel. “We’re fine, we’re OK”, I tried to reassure them. I wasn’t very convincing.

The next morning our road was still closed to incoming traffic. The farm was quiet, too quiet. No 5:00AM paper carrier, no Kathy delivering the mail, no Juan in his big green garbage truck. Through the smoke the roosters still crowed, the peacocks still called out and the pink ribbons still swayed on the gate.

I kept up my routine of feeding, chores, watering and milking my precious goats, Bon Bon and Seafoam. I found comfort in resting my head on their chest as I milked, feeling their breathing slow and steady. We waited and watched for 5 long days while the firefighters fought to protect us. At last we heard the news that the fire was heading away from the farm. We had been spared.

Our thoughts are now with all who have been affected by this horrific tragedy. Please stay safe, be prepared. For now, I’ll take down those pink ribbons on my gate.

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Chic Miller
Since 1990 Chic Miller and her husband, Bob, have owned and operated Bella Vista Farms Animal Sanctuary, a 501(c)(3) non-profit animal sanctuary on Gas Point Road in Cottonwood. The Millers care for hundreds of abused and neglected animals. Animals that come to this sanctuary remain there for the rest of their lives. Chic is a retired nurse and takes care of all the medical needs for the injured and ill animals. Aside from a few volunteers, Bob and Chic take care of all the daily chores. The Millers care for hundreds of animals, including dogs, horses, ponies, pigs, llamas, goats, cats, chickens and yes, even a one-legged turkey. Chic Miller can be reached at 530-347-0544. Click here to make a tax-deductible donation to help support Bella Vista Farms Animal Sanctuary.
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4 Responses

  1. Hal Johnson Hal Johnson says:

    I can only imagine how heart-wrenching that must have been. I’m glad to know that your sanctuary and your animals were spared.

  2. Avatar Bruce Vojtecky says:

    Thank you Chic. I was worried about your sanctuary and am glad to know you are okay. A former co-worked lives not far from you and I worried about her as I have lost contact over the years but if you were safe then she is.

  3. Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

    I receive Chic’s monthly articles in my Inbox and hoped that this one would appear here on ANC. Chic doesn’t “do” computers and I didn’t want to call to see how she and Bob and the animals were faring because what they probably didn’t need was yet another phone call. We boarded our now-deceased Springer with Cari Bowe who lives in Chic’s area and who also has several dogs in her care at any given time; so I e-mailed Cari to see she was doing and mentioned Chic. Cari responded that she and her charges were OK and that she understood that Chic and her brood were fine, too. That was reassuring, but having this article appear in my Inbox allowed a sigh of relief. If you’re reading this, you are already a donor to ANC. But if you have a few extra dollars and want to do even more good, Chic’s Sanctuary is a non-profit (tax deductible), and she can use donations toward food, medicine, and shelter for her dozens of animals.

  4. Avatar Doug Mudford says:


    It doesn’t surprise me that someone with such an elegant purpose in life could express the concern that fire brought with such directness and care. Beautifully written.