'I feel his pain': Puppy rescued from Lava Fire east of Weed finds new home with firefighter

Bill Choy
Siskiyou Daily News
Ash and his new family the day he arrived at his new home.

When Matt Corbell heard the tale of Ash the puppy, he knew he had found a kindred spirit and wanted to adopt him.  

In June, Ash survived being in the middle of the raging Lava Fire in Siskiyou County in the Juniper Valley area.  

Ash was discovered nestled under his dead mother by Cal Fire team leader Kevin Mancebo. Nearby were his siblings, with none surviving the inferno that swirled around them. But, suffering from smoke inhalation and burns, Ash the resilient pup survived.  

Rescue Ranch, based in Yreka, helped take care of him after Siskiyou County Animal Control gave him to them. When Ash was brought in, he had burned paws, singed fur, and injuries to his lungs from smoke and heat. In addition, he was dehydrated and in shock.  

Corbell and his wife, Lesta, were chosen to adopt Ash and took him home to Shasta Lake City in Shasta County in late July. Ash, now a little more than five months old, is happy and thriving with his human family.  

“He’s been such a great dog,” Corbell said. ”He’s mellow and friendly, although he is still in his goofy puppy phase.”  

Ash was the only survivor of a litter of puppies in the Lava Fire. He is being cared for at the Rescue Ranch in Yreka.

A kindred spirit

Corbell is a fire engineer with the Shasta Lake Fire Protection District near Redding. In 2014, during the Eiler Fire in the Burney area, he and his fellow firefighters survived a burn over. While fighting the wildfire, their only escape route was cut off. The only way out was to drive through the flames to safety. Although one of the fire engines was badly damaged and had to be pulled by another engine, no one was seriously injured. Corbell said it was quite the traumatic experience.  

“It was very scary and so hot” he said, adding he understood what Ash went through.   

“There’s a connection between Ash and me,” Corbell said. “I've been through it. There's definitely a bond there. I feel his pain."   

When he saw the story of Ash on Facebook, Corbell knew he had to have him. His family lost their two beloved dogs in the spring. They died about a month apart at 13 and 14 years of age. 

“We had them a long time. It was tough,” Lesta Corbell said, especially for their two adult children, who grew up having the dogs.  

The Corbell's said that Ash has been a valuable addition to the family. He gets along wonderfully with their other dog, Bailey. They both love to race around the yard together and quickly bonded with one another. Ash also gets along quite well with their four cats.  

“He's very chill,” Matt Corbell said.  

Shortly after the Corbell’s adopted him, there were some complications, as Ash’s respiratory issues resurfaced. The Corbell’s said their vet gave him a round of steroids, and he responded well to the treatment.  

Weighing just 10 pounds when he arrived at Rescue Ranch, Ash is now more than 45 pounds. Matt Corbell said his paws are quite big, and that “he’s going to turn out to be a good-sized dog.”  

Ash is at work on his basic training and recently attended one of Rescue Ranch’s Sunday morning classes.  

Ash is held by Ari Strasser of Rescue Ranch during a basic training class in September of 2021.

Working on a reunion

Matt Corbell has known Ash’s rescuer Mancebo for several years as a friendly acquittance. He would see him at different fires. Mancebo has wanted to visit Ash, but the busy fire season so far has prevented him from paying a visit.   

Recently, while both battled the Fawn Fire in the Shasta Lake City area, they caught up with one another. Corbell said he told Mancebo all about Ash and how well he’s doing. He said they are working on a reunion and told Mancebo that he would get a lot of grateful doggy kisses from Ash when they see one another.  

“He can’t wait to meet up with him again,” Corbell said. 

Cal Fire team leader Kevin Mancebo hold Ash after finding him during the Lava Fire in June of 2021.

Fostering Ash

After spending a few days at Rescue Ranch and with a temporary foster family, Ash spent three weeks and five days with his foster mom, AliCarmen Carico.  

 Carico, who lives in Lake Shastina, said Ash got along well with her four dogs.  

“My dogs loved him,” she said, adding he was such a loving and sweet dog. “I grew attached to him.”  

Carico considered adopting him. When she saw the outpouring of support for Ash and the number of people that wanted to adopt him, she knew he had another forever family he needed to be with. When she heard Corbell’s story, she knew he and his family would be a perfect fit.  

Carico has been fostering dogs for Rescue Ranch for more than a year and works at the adoption center at Rescue Ranch.

Natalie Golay, communications director for Rescue Ranch, said it means the world to the staff that Ash’s story has a happy ending.   

“Saving dogs who might otherwise die is our core mission,” she said. 

Golay said Ash is, “a poster child for the kind of teamwork it takes to save each of these dogs.”   

Ash and his foster mom  AliCarmen Carico,

A need for foster dog families  

Golay said having people fostering dogs like Ash, “is absolutely critical to Rescue Ranch operations.”  

Their average contingent of 40 dogs at the adoption center in Yreka and 12 to 20 dogs at their sanctuary in the Big Springs/ Montague area represent only about half of the dogs in their care, she said. The other half, usually comprising pregnant and nursing mothers, weaned or orphaned puppies, special needs seniors, and other special cases, are all in foster care.   

“Without fosters, we would be saving half as many dogs,” Golay said.

Rescue Ranch said they are always in need of people willing to foster dogs. Laura Finley, a Rescue Ranch board member who fosters dogs, said an ideal foster person should have “an openness and willingness to learn, a loving, compassionate heart, flexibility and a willingness to adapt one’s life to the dog’s specific needs.”  

She said that “fosters must be willing to let go. This can be difficult, but it is part of the process.”  

To learn more about fostering a dog and to fill out an application online, go to https://rrdog.org/foster-a-dog/. After, submit their application, the foster coordinator will get in touch.