Diamond Fire could endanger animals at Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center

Jun 27, 2023, 10:11 PM | Updated: 10:50 pm

Diamond Fire could hurt Wildlife Conservation Center 2023...

(Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center photo)

(Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center photo)

PHOENIX — An animal sanctuary in north Scottsdale is joining the fight against the 2,500-acre Diamond Fire, which started at 5 p.m. on Tuesday.

Staff enacted its fire protocol when the flames started to pose a threat. According to a press release the center released at around 7 p.m., it developed the protocol with help from local fire departments.

“This is one of the closer fires we’ve experienced,” marketing development manager Jamie Haas Oliver told KTAR News 92.3 FM by email.  “Smoke inhalation isn’t good for any mammals.”

She said small animals at the edge of the property are being moved to the center by crates. They’re also trying to hose down foliage at the edge of the property so the fire doesn’t spread onto the property at North 156th Street.

“Bears and mountain lions will remain in their enclosures,” she said. “Large animals like these live in the center of the sanctuary for this exact reason — they don’t need to be sedated and moved in an emergency.”

The center is Arizona’s only sanctuary capable of caring for large animals like black bears, Mexican grey wolves and mountain lions, according to its site.

“We’re lucky to not have any releasable black bears on site — only our five adult permanent resident black bears,” Oliver said.

It’s too soon to tell if the Diamond Fire is endangering the animals

She said the center’s policy is to shelter the animals in place, instead of moving them elsewhere if the fire worsens.

Many of the animal residents are tenuous — not to mention enormous. Five-hundred pound black bears and 180-pound mountain lions can be hard to quickly transport in an emergency.

“Southwest staff has worked with fire departments to determine the best course of action in these kinds of situations,” she said.

As the staff works hard to hold the Diamond Fire at bay, they’re too busy to see how the animals are faring.

“We won’t know if or how much this is affecting the animals at Southwest until we’re through it and our amazing volunteer veterinarians and staff vet techs can conduct evaluations,” she said.

Until then, she encourages animal lovers to keep the center in their thoughts.

“Ordinary folks can wait and keep the animals in their thoughts and prayers,” she said. “We’ll know what we need once we’re on the other side of this.”

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Diamond Fire could endanger animals at Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center