A crew from the Ventura County Fire Department was on patrol in the Maria Fire zone looking for dangerous burnt-out trees that could fall over and cause harm. The firefighters were in a eucalyptus grove in a canyon above Somis, California, when they spotted a great horned owl hopping around in the ashes.
They kept an eye on the bird to make sure it was OK, Engineer Mike Des Forges told the Ventura County Star, but it wasn't moving very much.
Eventually, they approached the owl, which was "very docile," he said. Firefighter Caleb Amico took off his flame-resistant yellow jacket and wrapped up the owl to protect both the bird and himself.
They named the bird "Ram" after their own mascot and because most of the firefighters are fans of the Los Angeles Rams football team. Photos of the bird — with his intimidating yellow eyes to match his new yellow jacket — were circulated with much praise on the department's Facebook and Twitter pages.
Firefighters brought the owl to Camarillo Wildlife Rehabilitation for care. According to Des Forges, the bird had no broken bones and his wings were fine.
According to the rehab group, the bird, "was found among the ashes, disoriented and suffering from smoke inhalation and a bad case of flat flies. Thanks to these courageous men, he will make a full recovery and be released back to his territory as soon as it's safe to do so."
The Maria Fire, which broke out on Oct. 31, has burned 9,999 acres in Santa Paula, California. As of Tuesday morning, it was 95% contained, according to CalFire. The considerably larger Kincade fire, which covers more than 77,000 acres, is about 84% contained.
Great horned owls are the most common owls in the Americas. According to the California Nature Mapping Program, the area where this bird was found is a common breeding ground. With it deep hoots, piercing yellow eyes and distinctive ear tufts, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology calls them "the quintessential owl of storybooks."
And this bird certainly got his happy ending.
Here's a video of Ram in his temporary rehab home while he heals as he waits to be released back into the wild.