As fires blazed out of control across a more than 160,000-acre stretch from Las Vegas to Mora, N.M., local animal rescue organizations scrambled to provide resources and safe spaces for displaced pets. Volunteers with the Santa Fe Animal Shelter even transported pets to Utah and Albuquerque to make more room.
When Bell Bank employee Dash Hamblin heard what was happening, he rallied his co-workers and together they provided enough financial backing to save at least 50 animals.
Dash Hamblin, Loan Officer
Santa Fe, N.M.
Santa Fe Animal Shelter
In late spring/early summer of 2022, the largest wildfire in New Mexico history raged across the state, transforming the sky into a roiling veil of smoke that obscured the sun and rained ash on those desperately scrambling to clear brush from around their homes and evacuate.
“At first we thought, ‘Oh, it’s going to be contained. It’ll be okay.’ And then it just didn’t stop,” Dash says. “We had a pretty dry winter, so everything was brittle up in the forest. And then when it went through these towns and destroyed structures, homes barns and farms. Families that had been farming for 200 years were displaced. It’s a terrible, terrible tragedy.”
Tens of thousands were forced to flee – many pet owners not knowing what might happen to the furry family members they couldn’t take into hotels or shelters.
“People ran from their homes, and a lot of people left their animals,” Dash notes. “The animals were out there foraging for themselves to survive, and the animal shelter went out, collected them, and brought them in.”
“Domesticated animals can’t fend for themselves. They don’t know where to go for food,” explains Murad Kirdar, Santa Fe Animal Shelter public and business relations officer. “We’ve gone through an unprecedented time here in New Mexico with the fires. A lot of animals were displaced. A lot of animals needed a place to be safe, and that’s what we did.”
Through his work at Bell, Dash sponsors a pet a month through the Santa Fe Animal Shelter – covering the adoption fee, vet services and care. And all of the dogs that have been part of the promotion have found their forever homes. Dash and a co-worker also cover the feed, vet services and care for a horse named Belle at the Santa Fe Horse Shelter.
“I was three years old when I had my first dog, a little mini poodle,” Dash explains. “Since then I’ve just connected with animals. Throughout my life, they’ve been my best friends.”
When Dash learned from Murad just how much the shelter was struggling to aid animals displaced by the fire, he contacted co-workers about putting their Pay It Forward funds together to help. Hoping to raise $3,000, Dash was shocked to find out he’d raised $10,000 the first day alone.
“Within the week, we raised $27,500, and I just was blown away,” Dash notes. “I could cry just thinking about it because it was just an idea – just a small effort on my part, and yet 50 of my co-workers came to bat to save animals, and really helped our local shelter – even people who didn’t live in New Mexico!"
Because of the financial backing, the shelter was able to save many animals – at least 50 with the Bell donation alone. That included helping dogs and puppies recover from a highly contagious parvovirus outbreak.
“It feels so good to know people here in New Mexico and people outside the state actually care,” Murad comments. “The Santa Fe Animal Shelter’s mission is to support animals, save lives and spread compassion – and we’ve been doing that for almost 82 years. What I love about working with animals is they love you unconditionally. Working in animal welfare for almost a decade, I’ve seen animals go through hell and back, and yet they still love you. If people could be that way, it would be a better world.”
Through the Pay It Forward program, Bell gives employees money each year to donate to people and causes they care about.