Heartwarming gathering brings North Bay fire animal rescuers and owners together

PETALUMA, Calif. -- Volunteers who hauled large animals away from danger during the North Bay Fires reunited Wednesday night. And many of those animal owners came to say thank you.

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"I said, if we lost the house, we'd rebuild," said North Bay resident Marty Stein. "If we lost the animals, I just couldn't go back emotionally."

The attachment Stein has to his animals is something volunteers understand completely, which is why they risked their lives to get them out of harm's way during Oct.'s North Bay fires.

"I know I did everything from rams to horses to cows and anything in between that I could fit in my horse trailer," said volunteer Sarah Hambly.

Dozens of volunteers came together in Petaluma to meet the people whose animals they saved.

Alexandra Spruce had no trailer of her own and was desperate to get her three donkeys away from the approaching flames.

She came to express her gratitude. "I just started crying because it was like these complete strangers that I have never even met before are here to help my family with our beloved pets," Spruce told ABC7 News.

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Another reason for the gathering was to talk about the future. The group has formed a nonprofit, called NorCal Livestock Evacuation & Support, in hopes that they'll be even better organized for the next wildfire. Despite having saved thousands of animals, volunteers often had trouble accessing evacuation zones, something they don't want to face again.

"We want to raise awareness, start the conversation of what needs to happen from here going forward," said Shelina Moreda of NorCal Livestock Evacuation and Support. "And also we want to start the conversation with officials and those who can help us obtain those goals.

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