LOS ANGELES (RADIO ALICE) – Videos from the Southern California wildfires spread just as fast as the flames do. One particular viral video has many applauding and at the same time, criticizing one man’s efforts to save a woodland creature.
Pacoima, California resident Oscar Gonzales was driving with a friend on Highway 1 as the largest of the SoCal fires, the Thomas Fire was burning nearby. When the 19-year-old Gonzales spotted a wild rabbit hopping around the freeway as the flames drew closer and closer. Gonzales says he stopped the car and ran out to help the animal. “I love animals myself,” Gonzales tells NBC LA. “I just felt bad, so I just ran out of the car, I was screaming!”
In the video, Gonzales is seen running towards the fire as the rabbit darts away from him. “I didn’t want the rabbit to go through the fire. I was yelling, ‘What are you doing?'” At one point, the rabbit hops towards and passes Gonzales, then pauses, giving him the chance to grab hold the rabbit and bring him to safety.
“At first he was afraid of me because I was yelling, but then it went in my arms,” Gonzales said.
Many praised Gonzales for his humane efforts on saving the rabbit. But there are some who felt he placed himself in serious danger.
Wildlife experts say animals, like rabbits “may have been fine” without intervention. Peter Tira, spokesperson for California Fish and Wildlife tells SF Gate the best thing to do is to “simply leave” the wildlife alone. Fire or no fire,” Tira said. “Just let the animals be.” Most small animals fair better during wildfires, according to Live Science. California’s desert cottontail rabbit stays safe because they are a burrow-dwelling animal.
Nonetheless…public opinion commends Gonzales’ humane efforts. Which proves self evident with how viral his footage went.