240 animals saved from fire by RSPCA heroes and an army of helpers

HEROES: RSPCA Orange shelter manager Marissa Clifford, customer service officer Sam Anderson, Dubbo foster care co-ordinator Kc Grealy and animal attendant Renee Archer. Photo: DAVID FITZSIMONS
HEROES: RSPCA Orange shelter manager Marissa Clifford, customer service officer Sam Anderson, Dubbo foster care co-ordinator Kc Grealy and animal attendant Renee Archer. Photo: DAVID FITZSIMONS

When Sam Anderson first smelt smoke on Saturday afternoon she had no idea she was about to be plunged into a rescue drama.

Miss Anderson, the RSPCA customer service officer, was on duty at the shelter on William Street. She raced out the front and saw grey smoke in the adjacent car holding yard.

After calling triple zero to alert the fire service she worked with three other staff to protect the shelter.

“We were out the back hosing down our fence line when the firies came over and told us to leave,” she said.

On the street they began to formulate an evacuation plan for the 240 dogs, cats, sheep, rabbits and guinea pigs inside.

People came to their aid from everywhere.

There were so many animals and such a massive emergency.

Marissa Clifford, RSPCA shelter manager

“There were volunteers coming to help us out. We had fire officers, police officers, the public and then the smash repair shop next door offered to put up the animals,” she said.

“We had people grabbing a lead and calmly leading the dogs out. The cats as well, we were trying to keep calm.”

Miss Anderson said they had most of the animals out before they were ordered to stop as the situation was becoming too dangerous.

“At one point everyone on site had to re-evacuate. Basically all those [animals] that were left had to remain here,” she explained.

BLACK SMOKE: Thick clouds emanate from the burning car yard next door to the RSPCA shelter during Saturday's blaze. Photo: JUDE KEOGH

BLACK SMOKE: Thick clouds emanate from the burning car yard next door to the RSPCA shelter during Saturday's blaze. Photo: JUDE KEOGH

Shelter manager Marissa Clifford said it was a while before they returned.

“There was a lot of smoke through everything,” she said.

Ms Clifford praised the staff, volunteers and helpers who united to save the animals.

“The fact that there were so many animals and such a massive emergency and for all of them to be taken out safely was just fantastic,” she said.

A sheep was walked back to the shelter over William Street Monday afternoon as one of the first to return.

Ms Clifford said some animals were still being cared for after suffering smoke inhalation but all would be OK.

She said she hoped the shelter could reopen on Wednesday.