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Phoenix vet clinic saves pets, loses building to Almeda fire

Phoenix Animal Hospital is one of the many businesses that lost everything after it burned down in the fast moving Almeda Fire Tuesday.

Glen Winters, the owner, said he never thought the animal hospital had anything to worry about until he started receiving calls about the severity of the fire later Tuesday afternoon.

"I started receiving calls that there was a fire going on in the Ashland and Talent area, and we said ,'Eh it's a couple of miles away, we should be fine,"' Winters said. "As the day went on a little bit, we started getting more and more frantic phone calls and that it was getting closer and closer, and so early afternoon we decided to evacuate."

Winters said all of the animals in the hospital were able to evacuate before the fire reached the building. Two owners were unable to get to the animal hospital, due to the road closures. Winters said his employees stepped up and took those animals home with them.

"One of my employees took the 38-pound tortoise home with him, and another employee got a dog to a rescue society that we work with. They were reunited later with their owners," Winters said.

Winters said everything was moving so fast that it didn't seem like it was real.

"As time went on, and the day went on, it got closer and closer," Winters said. "I was the last one to leave and when I looked down 99 south, about a quarter of a mile away I could see a 20-foot wall of flames coming towards us, so it was time to go!"

He said he has one regret - "wishing I had grabbed more stuff from the clinic."

Winters said the animal hospital lost all of its contents, equipment, supplies, inventory and the overall building.

"The only thing that went untouched is the American flag out front and the Phoenix Animal Hospital sign," Winters said.

He said he plans to frame the American Flag, and hang it in their new building as a reminder of the tragic fire.

The animal hospital was in the midst of adding on to the building, and now they will work with their hired contractor to rebuild. Winters said he expects the project to take 4 to 6 months to complete.

"We had so much outpour from the community to help us. People who have lost their homes were worried about the clinic," he said. "They were coming to us to volunteer to carry away the ash, to clear away the property to rebuild, it was absolutely overwhelming how much people were willing to help."

Winters said the good news is the business' insurance will cover the rebuild.

"We're going to come back bigger and stronger," he said.

He noted that the biggest question he's getting from customers is where to refill their animal's prescription medications, or where to get prescription diets.

"A couple of the animal clinics like West Main Animal Hospital in Medford and A Street Animal Clinic in Ashland are willing to refill the prescriptions without seeing the patients, and do whatever it is to help us until we reopen," Winters said.

Phoenix Animal Hospital is sending all of its customers to West Main Animal Hospital and A Street Animal Clinic for all of their needs until they are up and running again.

Winters said the heavy smoke is a concern for animal's health right now. He said to keep animals inside as much as possible if you can. He said animals such as horses and goats struggle the most with the smoky conditions.

Winters also said all animals who have been burned, need to get medical attention right away so the burns don't get infected.

He said animal anxiety following the traumatic fire could also be a health concern.

"Try the best you can to get back into a normal routine, because animals really like a routine," Winters said. "When everything is turned upside down on them, they don't have their home, sometimes they're displaced from their owners, getting back to a routine will be the best for them."

Winters said loving your pets, and giving them attention is the best medicine.

"Animals will go through anxiety not having a home, but as long as they have their pack members they'll be fine," Winters said.

The Southern Oregon Veterinary Specialty Center, an animal emergency hospital in Central Point, has launched a GoFundMe fundraiser called "The Phoenix Fund" in honor of the destroyed Phoenix Animal Hospital. The fundraiser had raised more than $29,000 on Sunday.

The emergency center is treating cats and dogs that have been burned in recent fires, including stray and lost cats and kittens.The center isn’t taking money for itself from the fundraiser. The emergency clinic is also covering the cost of care to the animals it’s treating until their owners can be found, after which pets will transfer to their own primary vet.

The Southern Oregon Veterinary Specialty Center will distribute money from the fundraiser to local animal aid organizations, including the Southern Oregon Humane Society, Shelter Friends, No Pet Left Behind, Committed Alliance to Strays, Southern Oregon All Breed Dog Rescue Association and the Toby Fund.

Burned pet cages remain at the Phoenix Animal Hospital, which was destroyed by the Almeda fire after workers evacuated pets from the clinic. Photo courtesy Glen Winters{ }
All that remains of the Phoenix Animal Hospital is the sign and an American flag in the aftermath of the Almeda fire. Photo courtesy of Glen Winters