The Nevada County Sheriff’s Humane Emergency Animal Rescue Team (H.E.A.R.T.) met recently in Grass Valley. The volunteer team, created by Animal Control Supervisor Stefanie Geckler, complements the Sheriff’s Animal Control Team during disasters like wildfires or snow storms.

The meeting kicked off with a short video, which explains why H.E.A.R.T. was created, what they’ve accomplished so far and what’s next.

YouTube video

The group’s efforts were recognized by Congressman Kevin Kiley (R-CA 3) who presented a certificate of recognition from his office to the group during their meeting.

Geckler with resolution of appreciation for the HEART team.
Geckler with resolution of appreciation for the HEART team. Photo YubaNet

The HEART team’s latest goal is becoming a certified Large Animal Technical Rescue Team. They will be teaming up with Nevada County Consolidated Fire District (NCCFD) to acquire the skills necessary for efficient and safe animal rescue, including rope and water rescue, confined spaces, vehicle accidents, and more. NCCFD has most of the necessary equipment and the group will be training alongside the firefighters.

One training “prop” the group is hoping to acquire is a life-sized horse mannequin. Tentatively dubbed “Chief” by Geckler the mannequin costs close to $16,000. “Recently, the Nevada County Law Enforcement and Fire Protection Council has given us a gift of $8,000 towards purchasing our horse mannequin.” Geckler said.

She also noted her boss, Sheriff Moon, has been generous towards the group, “Sheriff Shannan Moon has given us $30,000 to purchase a cargo and stock trailer. $35,000 to purchase an incident command trailer. Plus, additional funds to outfit and place signage on all H.E.A.R.T. trailers.”

Several Nevada County Supervisors were also in attendance to recognize the group’s efforts. Supervisor Swarthout noted that Nevada County was exceptional in the number of volunteers and non-profit organizations, and Rep. Kiley repeated the info in his address to the group.

Nevada County Supervisors and Rep. Kiley at the HEARTS meeting. Photo YubaNet
Nevada County Supervisors and Rep. Kiley at the HEARTS meeting. Photo YubaNet

As the Animal Rescue, Care, and Shelter Coordinator for Nevada County, it is Animal Control’s responsibility to ensure that Nevada County has a highly skilled, well-trained team of volunteers with the ability to safely handle animal rescues and large-scale animal evacuations during catastrophic events. The HEART team is trained and has access behind the fire lines to evacuate animals. Then, the Nevada County Veterinary Disaster Response Team (NCVDRT) takes over and cares for the rescued animals, generally at the Fairgrounds.

Here are some of the statistics on animal evacuations during wildfires in Nevada County:

2015: Lowell Fire – 350+ Animals

2017: Wind Complex Fire – 600+ Animals

2018: Camp Fire – Members relocated/transported over 100 animals and assisted with shelter in place feeding for hundreds more for months on end.

2020: Jones Fire – 600 Animals

2021: River Fire – 654 Animals

2022: Rice’s Fire – 159 Animals

“We are really one team, all working seamlessly together,” said Geckler. “One cannot function without the other.”

If you are interested in contributing to the group or joining them, contact the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office or the HEART group via their Facebook page.