It is no easy feat moving dozens of animals out of a shelter on short notice.
Cats, typically travel-averse as it is, need to be wrangled into carriers; some dogs cannot be transported with certain others or fights will break out.
But this was the situation Bendigo Animal Welfare and Community Services faced last weekend, when a grassfire broke out on Millwood Road at Huntly and quickly raged out of control.
The fire was called in about 2.40pm and by 3pm an emergency warning had been issued, advising people to leave the area.
BAWCS president Debbie Edwards said there were just a couple of people working at the shelter at the time, the day not being at Code Red fire danger.
On Code Red days, Ms Edwards said, more people were on hand in case of fire emergencies.
When the VicEmergency app sounded an alert of fire nearby, the volunteers went to take a look and found strong winds and billowing smoke.
After checking the app again and seeing the fire was not under control, the decision was made to enact the bushfire plan and evacuate.
A call was put out on Facebook before 3pm for assistance in moving animals out of the shelter to the evacuation point at the Prince of Wales Showgrounds.
A quick response from the community meant three dogs were quickly taken away from the site.
Attention was turned to getting out the remainder of the animals, which included almost thirty cats and about another seven dogs.
Ms Edwards said the sanctuary was set up as such to ensure the larger residents of the rescue, which include sheep and pigs, would remain safe in a fire.
In less than an hour, the animals that needed to be moved were out.
Importantly, all cats in the shelter had a carrier close by, which reduced the time it took.
"Considering the unexpectedness of it all, we cannot say enough how much it matters to have a plan," Ms Edwards said.
That evening the animals were moved back into the shelter, which was not affected by the fire.
Ms Edwards said the experience gave the organisation an opportunity to fine-tune its fire plan.
One of the things that would be improved, she said, was the system for returning the animals to their rightful places in the shelter upon their return.
She said they would also create a list of places that could house the animals temporarily should the shelter be lost to fire, and increase their supplies at the Showgrounds to improve the comfort of the animals.
The organisation has copped some criticism for putting out its call for help, although it did so before the emergency warning was issued.
While busy moving the animals during the fire, Ms Edwards said next time they would word their call-out differently and provide more frequent updates on the situation to supporters, to prevent people going out unnecessarily.
"We had no idea we'd get that much support," she said of last Saturday.
Ms Edwards thanked everyone who helped the shelter last weekend, especially the CFA for stopping the fire.
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