Out of the Woods
As 600-ft. flames loomed nearby, Parsons, 28, got permission from authorities to return to the evacuated area and rescue 400 chicks in incubators from the school's hatchery. About then a local fire official caught wind of his initiative and announced, as Parsons recalls, "Great. You're our new point man. Here's a list of all the other animals that need to be evacuated."
For the next few days, Parsons drove around in his battered Chevy pickup retrieving dogs, cats, ducks, horses and even a pair of recalcitrant ostriches, who had to be lassoed—dozens of pets and livestock in all. "Firefighters would say, I looked through so-and-so's window and saw a cat,' " says Parsons, who has also worked as a veterinary technician and mustang handler. "That's how I found out about most of the animals."
Even as the fire abated, Parsons continued his mission, making some 40 stops daily to provide food and water to stranded pets. "People are really grateful for what Steve is doing," says Ron Squire, 55, one of the few fellow residents who stayed behind to help fight the fires. "It certainly didn't surprise me that he did it. He's a good man."
Parsons himself sees no reason for such an accolade, despite the fact that many more animals would undoubtedly have perished without his efforts. "There are plenty of heroes in this town, and I'm not one of them," he insists. "I'm just doing something that nobody else thought to do."
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