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Arizona Humane Society’s Emergency Response Team Deployed to Backbone Fire

Written by: Kimberly Ring
6/29/21 Update: Evacuation Orders Lifted, Emergency Response Team Reunites Pets with Owners and Returns to Phoenix

Nine days. That’s how long AHS’ Emergency Response Team was deployed at our emergency pet shelter for Backbone Fire evacuees — the longest deployment in AHS history. As evacuation orders were lifted, the team reunited pets with their families, packed up the pop up shelter, and returned to Phoenix. Our Emergency Response personnel are ready to answer the call if and when they are asked to deploy again as the fire season rages on.

Each of the 31 pets we cared for had a story, but Cheyenne and Simba’s story is one our staff won’t soon forget. These two beautiful German Shepherds belong to a John, a firefighter who had just spent two exhausting weeks protecting homes from the Telegraph Fire near Globe, AZ before he was forced to evacuate his own home due to the Backbone Fire.

6/25/21 Update: Third Wave of Emergency Response Team Deployed, Rotating Staff and Volunteers Every 72 Hours

AHS’ Emergency Response Team cared for 27 pets today at Rim Country Middle School, bringing the total number of pets we have taken in to 30 pets. These are the pets of those who have had to evacuate their homes due to the #BackboneFire, which has burned nearly 41,000 acres and is now 6% contained. Our “C Team” started the third wave of deployment this morning, as we rotate staff and volunteers every 72 hours.

Watch our shelter tour via Facebook Live on the Arizona Humane Society’s Facebook page below!

We would like to give a special thank you to the Payson Walmart for their donation of blankets and beds – the pets slept like babies last night! At this time, we are all stocked on supplies, but monetary donations to our Disaster Relief Fund are always appreciated.

For those in need of emergency assistance, please call 9-1-1 immediately. If you have been affected or displaced by the wildfire and need help, contact the American Red Cross at or call 1-800-842-7349.

AHS and HSCAZ’s temporary animal shelter is located at:
Rim Country Middle School
304 S. Meadow Street
Payson, AZ 85541

The Red Cross shelter for people who need temporary housing is located at:
Payson High School
301 S McLane Rd.
Payson, AZ 85541
(0.2 miles from temporary animal shelter)

Livestock sheltering is available at the:
Payson Event Center
1400 S. Beeline Hwy
Payson, AZ 85541

6/23/21 Update: Backbone Fire is at 1% Containment, AHS Continuing to Provide Shelter to Evacuated Pets

Our small-but-mighty team of six is currently caring for 25 pets and has cared for 29 so far during this deployment. Evacuees with dogs and cats are encouraged to bring them to our shelter at Rim Country Middle School (304 S. Meadow Street, Payson, AZ 85541), located just 0.2 miles from the American Red Cross Arizona shelter at Payson High School.

Our days and nights consist of caring for the pets of evacuees by feeding them, cleaning their kennels, walking them, examining and treating them as needed, and more. We also do our best to make pets as comfortable as possible while they are away from their families – some pets need a quiet space away from the others, and others need constant snuggles and paw holding. This constant care is given between intaking new pets, facilitating reunions, and welcoming in pet parents who are staying in the Red Cross shelter when they visit their furry friends.

Our team tries to get some sleep at night on cots next to kennels, which is actually a huge comfort to our staff and volunteers who are missing their own pets at home! Each morning, they rub the sleep from their eyes, and do it all over again.

6/21/21 Update: Providing Shelter to 25 Pets, More On the Way

Our Emergency Response Team is continuing to assist the Humane Society of Central Arizona in Payson with relief efforts for the Backbone Fire, where we are providing shelter and veterinary care to the pets of evacuees. Currently, there are 25 pets in our care, and we’ve received word that there are more on the way. Fire evacuees are encouraged to take their pets to Rim Country Middle School (304 S. Meadow Street, Payson, AZ 85541), located just 0.2 miles from the American Red Cross Arizona shelter at Payson High School.

We’re honored to be on-site to serve these pets and their owners through one of the toughest weeks in their lives. Each pet is received with love and consideration to make their stay with us as comfortable as possible. And it’s your support that makes all of this happen. The best way to give is through our Disaster Relief Fund. This is the fastest way to help get supplies and personnel where they’re needed most.

6/20/21 Update: Caring for 18 Pets in Payson, AZ
We are currently assisting Humane Society of Central Arizona in caring for 18 pets at Rim Country Middle School. Fire evacuees are encouraged to take their pets to Rim Country Middle School (304 S. Meadow Street, Payson, AZ 85541), located just 0.2 miles from the American Red Cross Arizona shelter at Payson High School.
Having the ability to give pet owners like Cindy peace of mind for their pets during the Backbone Fire is exactly why we do what we do. It is an honor to work alongside the HSCAZ and the Red Cross in this time of emergency.
Third Deployment in Two Weeks

As the state’s designated responder for animals in distress during natural disasters, AHS has been deployed to the Backbone Fire, Northwest of Payson, AZ to assist the Humane Society of Central Arizona.

AHS has initially deployed a team of six staff members, including a veterinarian and Emergency Animal Medical Technician™, as well as an EAMT ambulance, AKC Disaster Trailer and transport vehicle full of supplies to help shelter and provide medical treatment to any animal evacuees in need. This team will be assisting the Humane Society of Central Arizona.

*** Fire evacuees are encouraged to take their pets to Rim Country Middle School at 304 S. Meadow Street, Payson, AZ 85541. ***