After the deadliest wildfire in California’s history last year, one family that fled has received a little joy. The family was reunited with its dog, Kingston, who disappeared shortly after the Camp Fire started.
The Ballejos family told Sacramento’s KXTV that Kingston, an Akita, jumped out of the truck as they were evacuating the wildfire area in Paradise, Calif.
“When I found out, [it] just about brought me to tears,” Gabriel Ballejos, Kingston’s owner, told the station. “I’m so proud of him. I can’t believe it. He’s a true survivor.”
The Camp Fire completely devastated this community — as NPR’s Kirk Siegler reported, disaster officials have said the daunting cleanup is on a scale that this country has not dealt with since Sept. 11. The estimated cost of the cleanup is some $1.7 billion. And much of the area has been declared a public health emergency owing to toxic debris.
The family had placed notices online seeking the lost dog — and eventually got the news it was waiting for.
Animal rescuers have been searching through the destruction to locate pets and reunite them with their owners. KXTV reported that Kingston was recovered by a rescuer named Ben Lepe, who had spotted him weeks earlier on surveillance cameras.
“It’s an awesome, rewarding feeling to know that you have them safe, and they won’t have to search for food,” Lepe said. “In Kingston’s case, what’s most rewarding is the family. They get to have him home.”
KXTV caught the moment on video when Kingston was reunited with Ballejos’ daughter, Maleah.
The large brown-and-white pup had a pungent odor when he was found – leading to suspicions that he may have survived on skunks during his time in the wild.
The animal rescue group that assisted in this reunion, Friends of Camp Fire Cats, has a notice board filled with photos of missing animals. The posts are full of success stories, too – such as a cat named Lady Locks who was found and is about to be returned to her family, which has since relocated to Colorado.