After the High Park Fire: Reunion Reminds Family What Truly Matters

By Jillian MacMath, AccuWeather.com Staff Writer
July 13, 2012; 6:06 AM ET
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The Scandrett's dog, Samantha, was just one of over 600 animals that the Larimer Humane Society sheltered after the High Park Fire ignited on June 9. Photo courtesy of the Larimer Humane Society.

John Scandrett didn't know how far the High Park wildfire would spread, but as he was sitting at a drive-in movie with his kids and their friends, things suddenly hit very close to home.

While John was out, his wife, Andrea Scandrett, had received an immediate evacuation order from their home in Bellevue, Colorado. With no pre-evacuation notice, she had little time to pack and arrange a place for the family to go.

The Scandretts, consisting of John and Andrea and their seven children, live in the Poudre Canyon, just outside of Fort Collins, Colorado -- the site of the second largest wildfire in Colorado history, costing over $19.6 million dollars.

After receiving the message from his wife, John was informed he would not be allowed back up the road to his home, leaving his wife, and the rest of their children to pack on their own.

They were only able to bring three of their many pets, 2 dogs and one cat, and whatever belongings they could carry.

With no idea where they were headed or how long they would be gone, the rest was left behind.

"She put the two dogs and the cat in the van, and as much clothing as she could, and they drove out," John said of his wife and kids.

Scandrett and his family made emergency phone calls to friends and relatives to find a place to stay.

Sick that they had left many of their pets behind, they called the Larimer Humane Society and informed them of the animals that remained at their home.

The list was long, including: 17 chickens, 3 rats, a hamster, a cockroach, a goldfish and a canary.

The Larimer Humane Society offered to house animals free of charge for victims of the High Park Fire. They have sheltered over 600 animals affected by the fire since it ignited on June 9.

"It was such a load off of our minds," John said. "They went above and beyond, taking them in in the middle of the night."

To the volunteers at the Humane Society, it was a rewarding experience. "These are their family members that they've been worrying about day-in and day-out, so to see them reunited is incredible," Laramer Humane Society Spokeswoman Stephanie Ashley said.

With the concern for their pets lifted, the Scandretts wondered what would become of their house.

As they packed their bags, the fire was visible from their windows, Andrea recalled.

"After a week, we had no idea if it was still there," John said. "And when [officials] could tell us, all they could say was that it was still standing."

The High Park fire was not extinguished until June 30, 2012, surviving for 3 weeks.

The Scandrett family spent almost two weeks at the houses of friends and family before the evacuation was lifted and they were allowed to return home.

When they did, Jim; Andrea; their seven children and more than 10 pets, found their house still intact.

"Even if we had lost our house, our kids and us are okay," John said. "Everything of value -- everything living -- was out. There are so many people that have it worse than we do," he said.

For more information on the Larimer Humane Society or to donate, visit larimerhumane.org.

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