A badly-burned border collie, left behind by a family forced to evacuate during the California Camp Fire that claimed the lives of at least 77 people, tried to protect a neighbor’s home after the massive fire destroyed every other house in the neighborhood.
Visalia Times Delta reports that couple Mike and Leahna Copsey and their two young children were forced to leave behind their family pet, Ella, when evacuating their Paradise home during the tragic California Camp Fire last week. Leahna said she was under the assumption they would be able to return back later in the day to retrieve Ella. But the fire spread, making it impossible for the family to return.
Leahna Copsey recalled fighting for hours in traffic with flames and smoke surrounding them as they tried to drive away to safety.
“All you could see was where the fire wasn’t. It was like something out of a movie. They had no idea where the fire was, and for it to jump like that – it was unreal.”
Leahna’s 24-year-old daughter, Kayla Westman, who drove a different route to escape the fire, told People her mother and younger siblings were stuck in traffic and had no way to return home to get their pup.
“As soon as my mom and sisters hit the main road, that’s when they realized how serious it was. They weren’t able to move…..There’s people all of a sudden running out of their cars because traffic’s not moving and the fire, all of a sudden, was that close. Nobody really knew it was going to jump that quickly…”
Her paws were burned and she was exhausted. For nearly two days, Ella did what Ella does: protect those she loves. https://t.co/wzw7sY3a7o
— USA TODAY (@USATODAY) November 17, 2018
Two days later, a friend of the family returned to neighborhood and spotted a badly-burned Ella standing guard at a neighbor’s house. The pup stood in front of the only house that wasn’t destroyed in the neighborhood, protecting it.
“She was protecting it… she was protecting the only house left on the block,” Leahna said.
Ella is now back with the family, but staying with Westman while the Copsey’s work to rebuild a home after the fire destroyed their residence.
“She’s a really good dog, so I was really relieved she was alive and it was only minor burns,” Leahna’s youngest daughter, 8-year-old Clarisa, told Visalia Times Delta.
Kayla said that a veterinarian treated Ella for burns, then allowed her to return to her family. Ella is already making a strong recovery and back to doing what she loves best: playing.
“They bandaged her up, treated her burns and then I was able to take her home that night, and bring her in the next day for them to treat the burns and have them soak the feet,” Westman told People. “She’s wanting to play. She loves squeeky toys.”
[Feature Photo: Ella/GoFundMe]