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Heroes: Fire fighters rescue 3 baby squirrels from roof of burning house

Posted September 24, 2021 2:04 p.m. EDT
Updated September 24, 2021 2:48 p.m. EDT

Baby squirrels rescued from house fire in Wendell

Multiple animals, including a beloved pet dog and three baby squirrels, were saved from a house fire in Wendell on Thursday morning.

Plumes of smoke obscured the tree line on Marshburn Road, and a heavy fire response battled flames in a historic home dating back to the turn of the century. Flames and heavy smoke could be seen coming through the roof.

With all the smoke and chaos, it seems amazing the fire fighters noticed three baby squirrels in their nest – and found the time to scoop them up and take them to safety.

House fire in Wendell sends plumes of smoke into the air, draws large response

Meg Brown sent a photo from after the fire, showing fire fighters smiling and posing with the three babies they had rescued.

"They were so sweet!" said Brown, who is a licensed rehabilitator for the state. She received a call from a Wendell police officer asking if she could take in the baby squirrel trio.

When Brown arrived, she was impressed to find the first responders caring for the babies. The little squirrels had been given oxygen for smoke inhalation and offered water.

"They didn't just have them in a box. They were cuddling and babysitting them," she said.

One fire fighter had a baby squirrel in his helmet. Another baby was being cradled by a paramedic.

"So just two?" she asked.

Baby squirrels rescued from house fire in Wendell

The fire fighter shook his head and pointed to yet another first responder, who had a squirrel attached to his shoulder.

"They didn't want to give them up!" she joked.

The babies are only around 3 to 4 weeks old and are currently in her care. They're big enough to drink from a bottle, and they are doing great, according to Brown, who has cared for many baby animals since becoming licensed.

Baby squirrels rescued from house fire in Wendell

Sadly, the babies' mother was unable to be found. Brown asked the fire fighters, and they said they had searched, but seen no sign of her. It's possible she was lost in the fire – but it's also possible she was away from the nest at the time and is alive nearby.

Brown is planning to go back and look for the mother, if the scene is safe enough.

"We’ve had very good luck of reuniting squirrels, even after a few days," she said. "I play baby distress sounds over my phone and stay far back. Usually mom will come down."

Crews battle blaze on Marshburn Road in Wendell

If she's unable to find their mother, she says the babies will still be fine. She will continue to care for them until they are big enough to be safely released into the wild once again.

Meanwhile, support is also pouring in for the family who lived in the historic home. A GoFundMe for the family has over $7,000 in donations

The Butcher family lost their cherished home, a historic farm house built in the 1800s. The family included three children, as well as beloved pets. Fortunately, no one was injured, and the fire fighters also rescued their dog.

According to the GoFundMe, they lost all possessions in their home. The story of the fire can be found here.

What should you do if you find wildlife in need of help

Brown says she gets around 100 to 200 calls each year to rescue animals – everything from geese to deer to raccoons. She's had plenty of baby bunnies, and has even been called to help a skunk.

As residential and commercial areas expand into animal habitats, people are running into more wildlife more often. This year alone WRAL News has reported on humans encountering baby bears, alligators and white deer. Brown says this is because of habitat loss.

"Right now, the city is putting a sewer main through my backyard, clearing a path around 120 feet wide for 8 miles, clearing every single tree in the way. If there was a baby squirrel or possum, there’s no way they can get out of the way fast enough. Unfortunately, a lot are dying that way," she said.

But animals in the surrounding area are hearing the sounds and running away – into roads, residential areas and people's yards.

"As their habitat goes away, we have to learn how to handle encounters even more. Snakes on our front porches. Possums and raccoons trying to get in our attics and garages," she said.

She says if you see a wild animal in need of help, call a wildlife rehabilitator near you. The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission has a list broken down by county.

There's also an app called Animal Help Now that she recommends.

"You can type in the specific animal and your location, and it'll give you a list of rehabers," said Brown. "I use it myself when I get calls from people far away from me."

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