California Oak Fire evacuees wait to learn fate of their homes

Some evacuees are staying in their cars because pets cannot stay at the same shelter as their owners

MARIPOSA COUNTY, Ca. – After the Oak Fire swelled in size over the weekend, thousands of residents were told to pack their essentials and pets and leave their homes.

As of Monday, firefighters continue to make progress on the once uncontrolled wildfire outside of Mariposa, which now stands at 10% containment and has incinerated more than 16,700 acres.

The fire has destroyed several residential homes, according to CalFire. At least seven commercial or residential structures have been destroyed since the wildfire started on July 22.


Some shelters are open for evacuees and pets, but pets can't stay at the same shelter as their owners. Some evacuees like Richard Blakemore choose to wait it out in their cars so they can remain with their pets. 

The American Red Cross is providing meals and other essentials.  

Blakemore told FOX 40 Sacramento he and his dog Bernie have water, essentials and the few belongings he could gather before fleeing their home.

"Am I taking this just for a couple of nights of evacuation, or am I taking this because I'm expecting my house to burn down?" Blakemore said. "Those are two different things you're going to be taking."


Because California state law allows journalists to go behind the fire lines, FOX 40 journalist Gurajpal Sangha could confirm for Blakemore that his home was still standing. 

"Wonderful," Blackmore said after seeing a photo. "Even my sheds. Everything's still there."

Another evacuee described returning to the fire zone to get his dogs and cats.

"I need her to stay alive," Martin Gott said of his medical dog. 

According to a 2021 study by the ASPCA, 83% of pet owners live in communities that face natural disasters.

With the increasing frequency of wildfires and other natural disasters, pet parents everywhere should have a plan in place if they need to evacuate or if their home is damaged. 

The Humane Society has a list of items that should be in a pet disaster preparedness kit. Those items for your pets aren't that different from preparing a human family member, including food and water for five days and medication.

On Saturday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in Mariposa County after the wildfire more than doubled in size.

Despite the growth, firefighting officials were more hopeful Monday after gaining some containment on the wildfire. 

"Firefighters are engaged 24 hours a day," Cal Fire Team 5 Operations Section Chief Justin Macomb said Monday. "They're giving it their best effort. And I am more optimistic today of what's going to happen than I have been in the previous days."