Richardson Rescue is usually a pretty quiet little corner of the universe.
The York-area animal shelter and adoption center’s owners and employees go about their work, dogs bark from time to time and there are the occasional visits from those looking to adopt a pet or guests of the Richardson home, which sits on the same property.
But in the last two days, since a fire destroyed three structures at the shelter, killing 16 dogs and injuring another, quiet has become a thing of the past as countless visitors, donors and volunteers have come down the dirt road off U.S. 321, eager to help Richardson Rescue get back to normal.
All of the attention is astounding, said owner Janet Richardson.
“I wish the dogs got this much attention all the time,” Richardson said. “Think how many more we could have saved.”
Word about Wednesday morning’s fire got out quickly through the news and social media. The cause of the blaze hasn’t been determined.
The phones haven’t stopped ringing and more than 700 messages have been sent to the rescue’s email account.
People have offered money, toys, blankets, food, medicine and their time to try to fix what the fire took away, which included thousands of dollars in medication, microchip equipment, and office supplies.
“This is why we’re still standing instead of being curled up in a little ball,” said Laura Boseman, an employee with the rescue. “There are a lot of good people out there.”
Dozens of local, regional and national animal welfare organizations have contacted Richardson Rescue, offering to help. And plenty of individuals have donated through the rescue’s website and Facebook page, in addition to just showing up to give whatever they can.
The rescue is carefully tracking these donations and organizing them in another storage facility they own, since their main storage space was consumed in the fire.
Thursday morning, Rock Hill resident Dolores Campbell brought her SUV full of blankets, cleaning supplies and dog food to the rescue to donate as much as she could.
“I saw it on Facebook and my heart just went out to them,” Campbell said. “I have three pit bulls that I’ve rescued, and I’m all about the dogs.”
Lost in the fire was a trailer that operated as the shelter’s office. For now, all operations have moved inside the Richardsons’ home. Janet and husband Scott have set up a makeshift operations center in the living room to deal with everything fire- and donation-related, while another employee has moved all the adoption work into Scott’s “man cave.”
While they aren’t able to take in any more animals right now, they’re still proceeding with adoptions as best they can to continue their mission of finding every animal a safe and loving home, Richardson said.
The shelter’s first priority is getting a new office space so they can resume their regular operations, take in more animals and keep them warm indoors.
State Line Scrap Metals, in Gastonia, N.C., donated a garbage bin so they could haul away scrap metal. The salvage company plans to crush the metal, weigh it and give the money that results from it to the rescue.
D& D Sanitation in Clover is donating a trash dumpster for non-metal debris and the York County Landfill has reportedly waived its usual dumping fees for the rescue.
On Thursday morning, the Richardsons’ son, Keith, and friends from Modern Warrior Mixed Martial Arts gym in Rock Hill, were climbing through the wreckage of the fire, filling the bin with all the metal they could find.
All that’s left is the metal frame the trailer sat on, said the Richardsons’ other son, Brian. Someone with metalworking skills and tools is needed to help take that apart. As soon as that’s done, the Richardsons can figure out if a double-wide trailer offered to them in the fire’s aftermath will fit where the old building stood.
Erica Scacchi was among those digging for metal scrap on Thursday. She said all of the teamwork and support the rescue was getting would help them recover quickly.
“(The Richardsons) are a great family and they’re always in the community,” Scacchi said. “I wanted to help however I could.”
Lake Wylie Pet Resort owner Tracy Boyle and a friend took time Thursday to help clean up dog cages, replace their water and do other tasks. They also donated several items and planned to give more.
“Our heart went out to (the rescue),” Boyle said “A fire is our biggest fear.”
Boyle said they would do whatever they could to help, including boarding and grooming dogs, since one of the structures lost was a grooming area.
One of Richardson Rescue’s largest community partners is PetSmart in Rock Hill. The rescue visits the store on Saturdays with dogs for adoption and the store has donated thousands of dollars of food, toys, leashes and other items in recent years.
On Thursday, store manager Burrell Cleveland was at the rescue helping with cleanup. He said his entire team of employees at the store was itching to contribute and that dozens of customers had stopped in asking how to help.
Cleveland called Richardson Rescue “the best adoption group in the world.”
He delivered some good news, too. Banfield Pet Hospitals, which operate in PetSmart stores in the region, were ready to give donations to assist in recovery efforts.
“Just call them and let them know what you need,” Cleveland told the rescue employees. “They’re ready to help you out.”