Caldor Fire: Firefighters Battling Massive Blaze Receive Emotional Support From Therapy Dogs in Moving Pics

by Matthew Memrick

With the challenge of the Caldor Fire bearing down on them, even first responders need some downtime with emotional support dogs.

Who can resist giving a friendly dog a nice belly rub after a long day of fighting fires?

People reported that the Marin, Calif. company First Responder Therapy Dogs met with Caldor Fire base camp firefighters recently on a break from the massive firefight.

The dog group is a nonprofit project that connects therapy dogs with first responders who may need emotional support and a sense of normalcy amid the mayhem.

These men and women likely spend weeks away from their families and homes. At the same time, they see the destruction of human life and property for hours at a time, for weeks and months at a time. 

Dog Project Goes To Caldor Fire First Responders

Heidi Carman started the project in 2020 with the hope of giving some relief to firefighters with her canines.

“I couldn’t imagine how positive the dogs were going to be until I saw for my own eyes,” Cal Fire Battalion Chief Jeremy Sanders told The San Francisco Chronicle newspaper. 

One of Carman’s dogs, a 3-year-old golden retriever named Kerith, met with a Caldor Fire camp near Lake Tahoe. The dog’s name is a girl’s name meaning “winter-stream” or “brook.” It also has biblical ties to a story with the prophet Elijah during a drought. 

The newspaper also reported on Carman’s dogs and her trips to meet firefighters over the past few weeks.

“It’s so simple. It’s just petting a dog,” Carman told the newspaper. “But she’s so good at what she does. … It’s an invaluable service.”

Carman and other dog handlers are raising funds to visit more wildfire base camps. Folks gave more than $1,500 over the group’s initial goal of $5,000. 

She thanked donors on her Facebook page while adding that her dogs are needed more than ever with 14,000 firefighters battling 12 large fires in California. 

Caldor Fire Huge In Three Weeks

According to Cal Fire officials, the Caldor Fire is only 25 percent contained with 210,259 burned acres. Its friend, the Dixie Fire, is 55 percent contained with 859,457 scorched acres.

According to the newspaper, the Caldor Fire has shot to No. 15 on the list of California’s largest-ever wildfires in only three weeks.

“Our firefighters depend on the love and comfort our therapy dogs bring them,” Carman said.

Carman’s trained and certified dogs go with their handlers based on donations. The donations cover travel and hotel costs. 

Foothills Therapy Dogs is another group in California. Betsy Crisp’s dogs have visited basecamps over the years, including the 2014 King Fire and the 2018 Camp Fire. 

Crisp’s dogs are at Caldor Fire basecamps along with Images of Home, another therapy dog program. The firefighters meet with the dogs daily for two hours during their firefighting preparation