UC DAVIS (CBS13) – Among rescue efforts in California's wildfires is an emergency response team from UC Davis that made a unique rescue of 30 koi from an ash-covered pond in Sonoma County.
"Not in my wildest dreams did I think I would be rescuing koi," said Kelsey Palsgaard, a sophomore in the veterinary program.
Researchers, students, and rescue efforts from UC Davis Veterinary Emergency Response Team deployed almost immediately and were surprised by what they'd find.
"The houses were no longer standing at all of the places we went to. [The fish] were really suffering," she said.
Needing an electric air filtration system and covered in ash, the fish were in a dire situation.
"I just saw these animals that are going to die unless we do something," said Professor John Madigan with UC Davis in response to the many animals and fish needing rescue.
It took a team of students, doctors, and experts to save and transport all 30 fish.
"Nobody had a transport system, so we built one," he said.
It was a first for the university. They bought buckets and a special air system from local hardware stores.
"Where in the world could you have a veterinary school and world authority on koi medicine and a facility," Madigan said.
It's a trifecta to saving some decades-old fish. They believe one is at least 70 years old.
"Right now the fish are looking good, but you have to be a little bit cautious with the prognosis," said Dr. Esteban Soto, professor of medicine at UC Davis.
In the long list of animals left behind, researchers took each and every one they could save.
In total, they took in 10 horses, two lamas, at least 19 cats with severe burns, and 30 koi.
It's a relief for so many residents who truly thought they'd lost everything.
"When you talk to them on the phone they say, 'I can't believe somebody's doing this for us,'" Madigan said.
From the firelines to UC Davis, these animals are getting the best care possible.
"That is our greatest hope: to get them back to their owners," said Hayley Dieckmann, a sophomore on the team.
These rescue efforts at UC Davis are made possible through donations to the Veterinary Catastrophic Need Fund.
To find out how you can help: