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California fire: Hero safari park owner saves animals but sees home burn down

Peter Lang is being hailed an animal hero for his quick-thinking and personal sacrifice to make sure not a single one of his giraffes, rhinos or cheetahs perished in the savage flames.

The 77 year old son of the famous Hollywood film director Oscar Lang picked up a hose and fought the advancing fires to stop them getting a hold at his Safari West wildlife park in the heart of the inferno that has gripped the Golden State.

As California counts the horrific human cost of the fires ripping through its famous Wine Country, with at least 23 people dead, up to 500 missing and 3,500 homes and businesses incinerated, the story of the fight to save creatures great and small has only strengthened America’s willpower to battle the disaster.

With animal welfare groups rescuing, treating and reuniting lost and terrified pets, the story of Peter Lang’s sacrifice and courage shines like a beacon of hope.

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Safari West wildlife park was caught up in the California fire

I have a thousand souls I’m responsible for. It wasn’t even a decision.

Peter Lang

The moment advancing flames, whipped by 50mph El Diablo winds, threatened the 400-acre estate with its collection of more than a thousand animals, Mr Lang went into action.

Ushering his wife Nancy, employees and 30 overnight guests away from danger, he picked up his garden hose and began dousing hot spots to quell the fire.

By running between the animals’ enclosures, snuffing out falling embers and coaxing hyenas and other animals from to enclosure to enclosure, he ensured not a single one of his prized creatures were harmed.

Mr Lang told local media: “I did not lose a single animal – it’s amazing.”

Tragically, less than half-mile away his home had been destroyed, but saving life had been his priority.

He said: “I have a thousand souls I’m responsible for. It wasn’t even a decision. This is what I had to do.”

The latest overnight bulletin from Safari West, which is sited 10 miles north of Santa Rosa, one of the worst hit areas of the California conflagrations, shows how the fight continues to safeguard the park’s animals.

It read: “Conditions at Safari West remain largely unchanged. The animals are safe, secure, and surprisingly relaxed considering the situation.

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Firefighters continue to tackle the blaze

“Our crews worked throughout the day to tend to the animals and bolster defences around the preserve. 

“This fire is far from contained and CalFire anticipates critical conditions to continue throughout the night.”

Animal welfare groups continue to play their part easing human suffering in the United States’ latest natural disaster. 

Up to 170,000 acres of countryside across California stand charred from more than two dozen separate wildfires.

The cause has yet to be ascertained but may be the result of power lines being brought down by the very El Diablo winds that are now fanning the flames.

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Up to 20,000 people are still under evacuation orders

Up to 20,000 people are still under evacuation orders, a frantic operation that left many heartbroken pet owners separated from their animals.

Sonoma Humane Society has been standing shoulder to shoulder with the emergency services providing animal welfare support and also using social media to help reunite lost pets with worried owners.

Images of a tabby cat with badly singed whiskers went viral after they were posted by the charity on Facebook and continuing stream of upsetting pictures of burned and lost pets highlight this poignant dimension of California’s suffering.

One cat with a badly burnt face appears to be back with its owners after its photographed appeared with the single caption: “Reunited!”

Another picture posted Sonoma Humane Society shows a scorched rabbit receiving veterinary care.

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