RESCUE, California. Under the refugees of the massive and deadly forest fires in Northern California were some hard-shell-survivors: 80 turtles.
Ken and Kate Hoffman, who run the Turtle-Acre Adoption Center in Anderson outside of Redding, were evacuated on Saturday in the middle of the wildfire has killed six people and destroyed more than 1,000 homes.
The couple opened the rescue center and sanctuary in 2016.
“If you had told me two years ago I was planning to do this, I would have said you’re crazy,” Ken Hoffman said.
But the Hoffmans say they had fallen in love with the reptiles. They even have matching turtle tattoos last week — right when fire broke out, which posed a threat to their 10-acre property.
KQED-TV says the couple made the decision to leave as embers fell from the sky and the air was full of smoke and ash.
Kate started packing stuff in a motorhome and the securing of the family’s menagerie, including birds, dogs and a llama. Ken began arguing with the turtles, which are a pair of brothers named Samson and Goliath, which weighs more than 200 kilos per piece.
The turtles were placed in a large horse trailer, with barricades to separate them, because the males fight with each other. It took seven hours to pick it up.
But the problems were not over. Their old pick-up truck was broken down. They borrowed from a friend, but it broke as they were on the road.
The couple sent out a desperate post on Facebook and after a few hours, someone from a local fence company to loan them a truck.
It was the night before the word came that the fire in the vicinity of the Hoffmans’ home was reducing, thanks to the fire-fighting efforts and changing winds. She decided to return home, but left the turtles packed in the horsebox for the case they had to flee again.
It was not until late Sunday that the couple felt safe enough for the turtles.
“We came back to the sanctuary, because the turtles are very emphasized in small circles … They need to stretch their legs and to eat,” the couple explained on their sanctuary Facebook page.
The turtles were thirsty and hungry, but volunteers brought them food and: “they are very happy,” the couple wrote.
Although the fire is far from extinguished, the Hoffmans planned to thank firefighters who helped beat back the flames that threatened their home. This weekend, they plan to have a number of turtles visit the fire department based on the local fairgrounds, according to their turtle sanctuary Facebook page. They are also scheduled to hand out thousands of hand-crafted buttons with the text “Thank You Firefighters.”