When his home and livelihood became under siege by the wildfires in California, one man chose to protect the animals on his wildlife preserve rather than his own home, successfully fending off the flames with little more than a garden hose.
Peter Lang, 77, and his wife, Nancy, have owned and operated Safari West in Santa Rosa, California since 1993. It’s a 400-acre wildlife preserve described as a “Sonoma Serengeti” and home to over 1,000 animals, including giraffes, cheetahs, hyenas, and countless types of birds.
When the California wildfires forced evacuations, Lang stayed behind to fight the flames himself and protect his animals. Lang used a garden hose to put out tiny pockets of fire before they could become larger fires and threaten the animals.
“One lit branch laying on that,” Lang said of his aviary, “it would have pssh, up in flames.”
Whenever hot ember landed adjacent to an animal enclosure, he was there to put it out. At other times, he had to push and encourage herds of animals to move to safety.
When the sun came up and the fires had moved on, Lang had successfully protected all of the animals on the preserve.
“I did not lose a single animal,” Lang said. “I do believe in souls, and all these critters do have souls, and it was my responsibility to save those souls.”
Unfortunately, it came at a cost. The wildfires destroyed Lang’s home, located a half-mile from the park. However, he has no regrets about choosing his animals over his house.
“It wasn’t even a decision,” said Lang. “This is what I had to do.”
In the days since the fire, some of the park’s crew, including keepers and veterinarians, have been able to return to work. All of the animals remain contained, safe, and are being cared for by Lang and his staff.