Cinder, a 39-pound black bear cub, was rescued last week from the Carlton Complex Fire near Wenatchee, Wash., where at least 253,377 acres have burned, the U.S. Forest Service reported.
The 18-month-old cub spent Monday morning on a two-seat airplane to South Lake Tahoe, Calif., while enduring pain from her burned paws, face and belly.
"It's kind of sketchy right now as far as exactly what happened, but what we do know is that there was a forest fire ... and Cinder got caught," said Tom Millham, co-founder of Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care, a non-profit organization that helps orphaned and injured animals. The organization operates under permits issued by California Fish & Game, the U.S. Department of the Interior and a federal wildlife service.
Millham said a homeowner, whose house was ravaged by the flames, found Cinder as he was returning home.
"She has burns on all four of her legs and her face, and she may have additional damage that I haven't personally seen yet," he said Monday.
Millham said it could take several weeks to several months before Cinder heals from the second- and third-degree burns and is ready for release.
"That will depend entirely on how the procedures go with the nursing care that we give her and see how she recovers from that care," Millham said.
Kevin Willitts, a veterinarian at the care center, started Cinder on pain medication and antibiotics.
"Burns, whether you're a bear or a person, are very painful," Millham said.
"We have no idea on much medical expenses will be," he said.
Cinder isn't alone
Cinder isn't the only bear to be recently rescued from a wildfire by volunteer staff at the care center. Cinder is one of 10 bears under the care of Millham and his wife, Cheryl, a record for the most bears they've cared for at one time.
Cinder, named by a Washington state wildlife specialist, will be kept in a pen area next to the Millhams' home with the other bears.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife sought out the Millhams to care for Cinder after learning about another bear cub that had been released after four months of rehabilitation at the center. That eight-pound bear was rescued in the Redding, Calif., area by a firefighter, Millham said.
On average, the care center annually rescues and rehabilitates up to eight bears, with Cinder marking the 11th bear this year.
Heavenly, a cub bear rescued earlier this year in the Lake Tahoe area, later was sent to an animal sanctuary in Scottsdale, Ariz.