Tux, the survivor.
- A giant forest fire has consumed part of the city of Fort McMurray in Canada's north.
- Fort McMurray is the center of the infamous Tar Sands project and other oil industry developments. A crime against nature in itself.
- Residents left hundreds of pets behind to starve or burn alive.
- This is a betrayal of people's best friends and companions.
- Although authorities ordered residents to leave immediately, it only takes seconds to put a cat in a carrier, or place a leash on a dog, and bring them along with you.
- Many people were told to head directly from work to the road out of town and escape the conflagration.
- But if those people had had a grandparent or a child sitting at home, they would have found the way to make a detour and pick them up before escaping.
- The media so far has not focused on people's betrayal of hundreds of pets, too busy reporting on the spectacular fire and the suffering of residents.
- Wildlife too have died, and we'll never know the toll.
- Parts of the city are still standing and people are beginning to return to their homes.
- Cat Tux's owner spent 15 minutes gathering belongings before rushing out of the house - without her cats.
- Here is the story of Tux, who was left behind to starve or burn alive. Here is how he survived. Three other cats in the family are presumed dead.
Continue reading about Tux, the volunteer rescue effort, and how the tar sands have ravaged a once pristine environment.
Firefighters perform first aid on Tux.
Tux's owner Jody Lishchynsky told Global News that firefighters speculate the cat crept into the stove after an explosion within the house blew out the stove glass. The day the fire shot through Lishchynsky's subdivision the city was in utter chaos, she recalls.
|A convoy flees Fort McMurray|
“We gathered for about 15 minutes. We had a nice pile of photos in the kitchen, ready to go,” she says. But then, “the wind shifted, and it jumped the highway. It came down over our hill in minutes. We had to run. We weren’t expecting it at all,” Lishchynsky told Global News.
Lishchynsky, her son, her roommate, and her brother hurried into their truck with whatever they were holding. The family dog followed suit, but the four cats were not seen. “I didn’t take the chance of going back in the house for anything,” she tells Global News. “It was coming too fast.”
|Fort McMurray residents preparing to leave|
as the fire approaches
Lishchynsky caught wind of her cat's survival while on social media. According to Global News, she saw photos of a firefighter holding a black cat with bandaged paws, which she recognized as Tux.
He looked so dirty in the picture, and had no whiskers," Lishchynsky said. She soon discovered that another one of her cats, Sky, had also been found with not much of her fur left. The other two were not found.
The family was recently reunited at Lac La Biche Humane Society, where Lishchynsky found out the firefighters had nicknamed her cats Toast and Singe.
Lishchynsky's home and many of her photos and valuables were lost in the fire.
What's left of the neighborhood.
One cat, Tux, survived against all odds.
One cat, Tux, survived against all odds.
Here are a couple of readers' comments
on the news story reported by the Weather Network:
In fact, she should have had carriers ready by door because she, like everyone else, knew the fire could come to her house. I've seen this woman on Facebook and she talks about her car being ruined in her driveway, not about her cats being burned alive. She doesn't care about the cats. If she did, she would have done what all of us pet lovers would do and make sure they were ready to go first. Pathetic.
Larry Tilander - Seeing the bit about the cat that survived reminds me of one of the worst things I have every seen; which happened when I was fighting forest fires in Northern Ontario in 1977, the year Cobalt burned. There were what had been pets, mostly dogs left behind and they were horribly burned and some were still alive. We had to put them down with our fire axes. I never want to see anything like that again.
The organized pet rescue effort
The Weather Network - May 8, 2016 - Now, with firefighters successfully holding the flames, and with winds blowing them away from the city, Premier Rachel Notley says the RCMP, the SPCA, and Alberta Agriculture and Forestry have been looking into reports of pets left behind.
|The fire is still raging in the forest|
although the city is safe, for now
and some residents are returning home
"As soon as it was safe to do so, teams began going to locations where people reported pets had been left behind to give them food and water, and have also been keeping an eye out for animals in the streets," Notley said at a Sunday press briefing.
"The SPCA is now requesting that anyone with pets left behind, please register with them online. They’ll contact you in coming days regarding your pets."
The Fort Mac Fire - Pet Rescue Facebook page has more than 3,800 members, and several small groups ventured into the city over the past few days in an effort to find stranded pets.
One group told the Globe and Mail they'd received that thousands of emails from worried pet owners as of Sunday, and some members of the Facebook group rescued some 230 pets on Wednesday and Thursday.
However, authorities have attempted to keep non-essential personnel out of the city, and pet rescue groups were ejected from the city on Thursday and Friday.
Sam Sansalone, whom the Globe identifies as having a "leadership role" in the pet rescue Facebook group, said authorities told him they feared looters may use the guise of rescuing pets to rob homes.
Even if pet rescue attempts step up in the coming days, one would-be rescuer, Tim McHaffie, told the Globe a sad sight might await in the empty city.
"It’s been days now. How long have these animals been there without food and water? There’s a good chunk of them that’s probably not going to be living."
The city is "a mass grave of pets in basements, in crates..."
A small but dedicated group of animal lovers is determined to continue rescuing pets from a potential "mass grave'' in the abandoned homes of Fort McMurray, Alta., despite having been kicked out last week.
Members of the group said that by Sunday afternoon, they'd received thousands of emails from evacuees of the northern Alberta wildfire whose pets were left behind.
Police helping abandoned pets at Fort McMurray
Many face starvation.
Sam Sansalone, who's based out of southern Alberta and is a member of the Facebook group Fort Mac Fire - Pet Rescue, where many of the efforts are being co-ordinated, said group members rescued about 230 pets on Wednesday and Thursday.
But on Thursday, and again on Friday, police kicked them out, he said.
He said authorities told them that the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo was taking over pet rescue duties, and there was a risk that people working independently might loot houses under the guise of attempting to rescue pets.
Sansalone said he understands that concern, but that official resources are spread too thin, and civilians should be allowed to help.
Plus, Wood Buffalo's rescue effort didn't start until Saturday. Sansalone said he was worried that would be too late for many of the pets.
"This is a mass grave, in basements, in crates,'' he said.
He said that now, his group will try to work with local authorities. He said they're hoping to speak with RCMP at the scene and get approval to join the official rescue efforts.
Tim McHaffie arrived at a road block outside of Fort McMurray after a two-hour drive Sunday. He was with a group of about 15 other prospective pet rescuers that came from the Facebook group.
McHaffie said there were still a few barriers to getting into the town, and into people's houses, but he was hopeful that officials would eventually let them through.
Volunteers bring in more donated kennels for pets of evacuees from the Fort McMurray wildfires at a shelter in Lac la Biche, Alta. (Photo: CP)
Alberta premier Rachel Notley told a news conference that it was unsafe for people other than first responders to enter Fort McMurray, but emergency personnel were already helping rescue animals.
She said first responders were giving food and water to the pets left behind by evacuees, and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was attempting to rescue what pets they could.
She said the SPCA was asking pet owners to register their pets online, to give permission for the official rescue team to enter their homes.
McHaffie said that if his group does get through, he said it was important that everyone understand what they might find.
"It's been days now. How long have these animals been there without food and water? There's a good chunk of them that's probably not going to be living."
"Once this is done, people are going to sit down and they're going to have a big cry,'' he added. ``But the job's the job. You've got to get it done.''
The infamous tar sands of Alberta
A landscape so large and so ravaged by the oil industry that it can be seen from space
BEFORE AND AFTER
The Tar Sands - A CRIME AGAINST NATURE
Thousands of birds have died
in toxic ponds of the tar sands of Alberta
The product is exported abroad. Some individuals get rich.
Canadians are left with a poisoned landscape.
Greenpeace: Aerial view of a tailings pipe
at the Syncrude upgrader plant and tailings pond
in the Boreal forest north of Fort McMurray.
Greenpeace: The tar sands are huge deposits of bitumen, a tar-like substance that’s turned into oil through complex and energy-intensive processes that cause widespread environmental damage.
These processes pollute the Athabasca River, lace the air with toxins and convert farmland into wasteland. Large areas of the Boreal forest are clearcut to make way for development in the tar sands, the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada.
Greenpeace is also concerned with the social and health costs of the tar sands. First Nations communities in the tar sands report unusually high levels of rare cancers and autoimmune diseases. Their traditional way of life is threatened.
Substance abuse, suicide, gambling and family violence have increased in the tar sands. Meanwhile, the thousands of workers brought in by oil companies face a housing crisis in northern Alberta.
Enbridge Inc.'s tar sands tanker pipeline proposal threatens to allow a 30 per cent expansion in tar sands development. Enbridge's tar sands pipeline would span 1,170 kilometres from Hardisty, Alberta to Kitimat, in the Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia.
Over the past decade, Enbridge's own pipelines spilled an average of more than once a week.
The pipeline would cross over 1,000 rivers and streams and the Rocky Mountains on the way to B.C.'s pristine coastline.
The pipeline would bring more than 200 crude oil tankers through some of the world's most treacherous waters each year.