Published Dec 15, 2017 at 10:24 AM | Updated at 1:23 PM PST on Dec 15, 2017
Search dogs and their handlers are trained to respond to natural disasters. But earlier this month, they were getting out of the way of one in Southern California.
Relentless winds during the first night of the devastating Thomas fire fanned flames in the community of Santa Paula, home to the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation and its National Training Center campus.
All dogs were evacuated safely on the night of Dec. 4, when the fire was fanned by strong winds as it raced down a canyon. They've been staying with staff members at nearby hotels and will return to their kennels when the property is cleaned up and ready.
The worst damage occurred in a simulated disaster zone used for training. Only remnants of buildings were left behind by the fire, which has grown to more than 252,000 acres to become the fourth-largest wildfire in California history. The campus' main buildings were largely left undamaged.
Dogs trained through SDF are recruited from animal shelters. They go through a detailed assessment process to determine whether they're a good fit for search-and-rescue operations, then trained in Santa Paula and matched with firefighters and other first responders at no cost to the departments. It has been a busy year for the dogs and their handlers, who have responded to a string hurricane recovery efforts and other disasters. Here's how to donate to the foundation.
Below, a look at the damage left behind by the Thomas fire.