By now, most everyone has heard about the massive wildfires that are sweeping the Western United States. Firefighters are constantly battling to keep the blaze subdued to minimize loss.
The most important asset is human life, but that’s not the only thing at risk during a wildfire.
When a wildfire pops up, the ultimate goal is to make sure that all the nearby people are safe. Houses can be rebuilt, people can’t. When a wildfire sweeps through an area, most people are smart enough to have left by that point. While human lives are saved, it’s not always the case for wildlife.
In the Australian fires, for example, the number was in the billions.
With fires raging for months, animals all across the country were on the run from the flames. Some were forced to relocate and others just didn’t make it.
“Australia’s bushfire crisis was one of the worst wildlife disasters in modern history. The fires killed or displaced nearly 3 billion animals. Uprooting families and claiming lives, bushfires raged across Australia from June 2019 to February 2020″ – World Wildlife
In the midst of so much disaster, there are still incredible stories of hope to be found.
In California, helicopters are used extensively to help fight the fires. Using big cloth buckets, they swoop down and take water from pools, lakes, and rivers to drop on the raging fires.
Don Alpiner is a helicopter pilot with an amazing story.
Don has been fighting the Creek Fires in California for quite some time now. While he was dropping buckets of water over the wilderness, he was visited by a friend that reminded him of the “why” behind all the sacrifice.
When he was 200 feet above the ground, he noticed a flurry of activity behind him.
Looking back, he discovered that he was no longer in the helicopter by himself.
“I saw this flutter out of the corner of my eye,” Alpiner told The Dodo. “I looked over, a little spooked, and we locked eyes.”
An owl had flown into his helicopter!
The little owl was trying to escape from the blaze and had seen his helicopter as a safe place to get a little rest. Who knows how long it had been trying to find a safe spot to land!
The little owl was happy to hang around as Don worked.
The owl was super sweet and didn’t mind staying where he was for a little bit.
“He just kind of chilled out,” Alpiner said. “I was really surprised. He was super friendly — like he just wanted to say hi.”
An interaction like this was a great reminder for Don.
His new little friend stayed in the helicopter for two refills and drops on the fires.
“Well, let’s go do some work here, buddy.”
Finally, the little creature said goodbye.
Flying out of the window that he originally entered, the bird slipped out and went on his way. With nowhere safe to land, you can imagine how happy he was to find an island of safety for a time.
“I’m still trying to comprehend it. It was just unreal,” Alpiner said. “It was one of those once-in-a-lifetime kind of things.”
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