Cheetahs evacuated from San Diego fires sheltering at Cat Haven in Dunlap


Some of the evacuees from the fires in southern California are here in our area.
Flames were just yards away from a sanctuary for wild and exotic animals near San Diego.

One-hundred-and-twenty animals were evacuated, including two cheetahs who are now here in central California.

Victor, an eleven year old cheetah, is one of those forced to seek refuge away from home, driven out by the flames on the Lilac Fire near San Diego.

“It’s been an adventure getting these guys here. My coworker, Michelle, and I have not had much sleep, nobody really has.” said zookeeper Sarah Young.

Young is a zookeeper at Wild Wonders, a wildlife refuge in Bonsall.

Workers took this photo as the Lilac Fire burned frighteningly close to their neighbors property.

That prompted them to evacuate 120 animals, including two cheetahs, Victor and Masika, who came to Project Survival Cat Haven in Dunlap.

“So the cheetahs need safe space and safe enclosures. so we have a few nice enclosures for the cheetahs to be comfortable in,” said Wendy Debbas, assistant director at Project Survival Cat Haven.

Cat Haven didn’t hesitate when it came to opening their doors to the evacuees. They’ve been in this same position, back in September of 2015. Cat Haven had to evacuate all 35 of their big cats as the Rough Fire burned to the edges of the sanctuary.

“We had a similar situation two years ago and had lots of help from other animal facilities so it feels good to help somebody else,” Debbas said.

Masika was a little unsure of the new surroundings. But Victor had been to Cat Haven before, when he first moved to California.

“It was really nice because we were able to put a leash on him and walk him up to the enclosure. He nicely walked up with us and he wasn’t stressed or unhappy,” Debbas said.

The cheetahs will stay at cat haven until the fires die down and they get the ok to return home.

“They’re safe and they have wonderful enclosures and wonderful care. We’re happy to have them in good hands,” Young said.

If you’d like to help Wild Wonders with the cost of the evacuation efforts, you can contact them online at

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