Patterson’s Kimberly Furtado is Ready to Respond

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As veterinary clinics in the Sierra Nevadas grappled with two wildfires, Patterson rep Kimberly Furtado found ways to keep supplies coming. 

Kimberly Furtado, a territory manager for Patterson Veterinary, lives and works in one of the most beautiful parts of the United States. Furtado’s territory is most of Nevada (minus Las Vegas), and the Sierra Nevada region on the east side. The eastern region of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range is home to snow-capped peaks, green valleys, rushing rivers, and Lake Tahoe, the largest alpine lake in the United States.

Headshot of Patterson Veterinary's Kimberly Patterson
Kimberly Furtado

Recently, though, the region has been fraught with devastating wildfires. That was the case in 2021, when not one, but two major wildfires affected the region, causing evacuations of many of Furtado’s customers.


Dixie Fire

The Dixie Fire started July 13, 2021 and was active for more than 100 days. It spread to five counties (Butte, Plumas, Shasta, Lassen, and Tehama), burned 963,276 acres, and destroyed more than 1,300 structures. The wildfire was the second largest fire in California’s history, following the August Complex, which burned more than 1 million acres in 2020.

The Dixie Fire started burning on the west side of the Sierra Nevadas and would eventually move east, threatening several of Furtado’s veterinary customers. For instance, the fire burned all the way around the town of Chester, home to Nelson Veterinary Services, which had to completely shut down for weeks.

Headed toward Dixie Fire view from car front seat
Heading towards Dixie Fire

Even though the clinic had to shut down, its veterinarian, Dr. Clyde “Bob” Nelson stayed in town and kept a watchful eye over houses and properties, taking care of things for those people that had evacuated.

The Dixie Fire also broke over on to the east side of the Sierra Nevadas near Susanville, home to Lassen Veterinary, which had to shut down for a couple of days. Their biggest issue was that the fire burned down all the phone towers. Electricity was also out for quite a while.

South of Susanville, Thompson Peak Veterinary Clinic in Janesville had two mandatory evacuations during the entirety of the Dixie Fire. Once they were out for a week. “Everybody had to leave town,” Furtado said. “They had evacuation notices a couple of times because the fire kept coming over the mountains and threatening more areas. The Dixie Fire burned around them, but they didn’t lose anything.”

However, the veterinary team did have to grab servers, as much mobile equipment as they could, and important items and documents during their evacuation. Thompson Peak’s parent clinic is north in Alturas which is a solid hour and a half away. Fortunately, Thompson Peak was able to send some of their things to their parent clinic for safekeeping, as well as recommend pet owners receive treatment and services there.

Photo of DR. WAYNE COCKRELL and Office Manager Sue Langley of Thompson Peak
DR. WAYNE COCKRELL and Office Manager Sue Langley of Thompson Peak

One Thompson Peak veterinarian, Dr. Wayne Cockrell, is a heavy equipment operator. He grew up on a farm cattle ranch in Surprise Valley just outside of Alturas. While the clinic was closed, Cockrell operated a dozer trying to help make fire lines. “The veterinarians and their staff around here are just doers,” Furtado said. “It’s kind of a cowboy land up here. They take care of their people and take care of their neighbors and their businesses and make it work.”

In turn, Furtado was determined to help her customers any way she could. As the disaster worsened, she asked her boss, Michael Brickman, if Patterson could get any donations to the clinics affected. Brickman reached out to the local Patterson warehouse. “They sent me a bunch of stuff,” Furtado said, “such as gauze, gloves, and cleaning solutions for changes in environments and things like that.”

During one trip in her territory, Furtado had left to take a load up to Susanville, and on the way there, evacuation warnings sounded because the fire was moving back into the area. “We’re talking really, really gnarly, high winds that were pushing it to the east side,” she said. “So that was a little bit concerning.” She was able to get to Thompson Peak and drop off the supplies. The clinic agreed to distribute supplies to any of the other nearby veterinarians who needed them, but that Furtado had been unable to visit because of the wildfire.

Photo of 3 - Humane Society of Nevada worker, Furtado’s son Harrison and Furtado at Fuji Park in Carson City, Nevada.
Humane Society of Nevada worker, Furtado’s son Harrison and Furtado at Fuji Park in Carson City, Nevada

Caldor Fire

The Caldor Fire started on August 14, 2021 and burned more than 220,000 acres in El Dorado and Amador counties in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California. It raged for two months and threatened the area surrounding Lake Tahoe, a popular resort destination.

Furtado’s husband works for CalFire, so he was stuck on duty for weeks straight while fire resources were stretched thin. His decades of experience also gave Furtado more insight into how the fire would affect the communities in the Lake Tahoe area. “We were pretty shocked that the fire essentially jumped a granite mountain, which is not typical,” she said.

So, when South Lake Tahoe was evacuated, it was a big deal, Furtado said. “They evacuated because there are just two-lane roads in and out. The danger of congested roadways and traffic jams in the event that the fire actually reached homes was severe. They made sure people got out before it reached homes.”

Several of her veterinary customers were affected, including Blue Lake Animal Care Clinic, Sierra Veterinary Hospital and Heal Integrative Veterinary Medicine in Nevada, which had to be evacuated. Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care Center was forced to evacuate coyotes, foxes, porcupines, hawks, owls, racoons, some smaller mammals and a variety of birds.

Furtado delivered supplies to the Nevada Humane Society because they were hosting evacuation centers in Carson City and Reno. “They had secured a huge barn and people were bringing their pets there for safekeeping,” she said. “A lot of people had gone there and put their pets in carriers for safekeeping. The Humane Society was collecting pet food and all kinds of things at this site, whether it was cat litter or whatever their necessities were. So that’s where a lot of the gloves and sanitizing equipment we collected went.”

Photo of Caldor Fire Dog evacuees
Caldor evacuees

A team effort

Fortunately, once the fires were contained, all of Furtado’s customers were able to get back to a sense of normalcy with seeing clients relatively quickly. With the threat of wildfires becoming greater in recent years, Furtado said she, Patterson and the warehouse teams are more prepared to set certain supplies aside in the event of a disaster response.

“I think it’s fair to say that people have an understanding that they need to be prepared,” she said. “Especially after the Paradise Fire in 2018, people are taking it more seriously, and really getting prepared every year for catastrophe. But it’s just one of those things you never know until it hits. These fires can be so devastating and move so quickly. You just hope that it doesn’t happen to you.”

Furtado said that for the warehouse teams who respond to these events, the stories of how they made a difference often don’t come full circle. “When we donated this year, I sent information back to the warehouse team,” she noted. “I said ‘I appreciate your efforts. I know this is out of the norm. And this is what we did with the items that you were so gracious enough to set aside and go out of your way to send.’ The warehouse team really appreciated being included. To have a full understanding of where their efforts were going meant a lot to them.”

 

About the wildfires

The Dixie Fire started on July 13, 2021 and was active for more than 100 days. It spread to five counties (Butte, Plumas, Shasta, Lassen and Tehama), burned 963,276 acres and destroyed more than 1,300 structures. The Dixie Fire was the second largest fire in California’s history, following the August Complex, which burned more than 1 million acres in 2020.

The Caldor Fire started on August 14, 2021 and burned more than 220,000 acres in El Dorado and Amador counties in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California. It raged for two months and threatened the area surrounding Lake Tahoe, a popular resort destination.