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While people fled wildfires, Petaluma officer saved animals

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Mark Scott was awoken in the dead of the night Oct. 9. Sonoma County was on fire. Thousand of people were fleeing homes. Someone had to think about the animals.

Scott, a senior animal control officer for Petaluma Animal Services, jumped into action, preparing a staging area to care for the hundreds of pets that evacuees would bring to the Lucchesi Community Center. Then, as people fled the worst wildfire in state history, Scott ran toward the flames.

Over the next two weeks, he worked in Santa Rosa rescuing pets and livestock that had been abandoned in the chaos of the Tubbs fire.

“We worked nonstop,” said Scott, 46. “We slept in our cars. You do what you have to do.”

Scott had practice for this kind of disaster. Two years before, he did the same thing during the Valley fire, saving animals from the massive blaze in Lake County.

When flames aren’t threatening large swaths of Northern California, Scott’s normal job entails reuniting Petaluma pet owners with their missing beloved beasts and assisting law enforcement officers on calls involving dangerous creatures. Scott said his love of animals and service to the community keeps him motivated.

“It’s the best job I’ve ever had,” said Scott, who previously worked for a Postal Service contractor and for an animal supply company. “I didn’t think I would fall in love with this job, but I did. Every day is different.”

Scott, who lives in Cotati with his wife and kids, is the service person of the week for the Argus-Courier. Two of his three kids, ages 14, 15 and 21, go to Petaluma schools, and his wife is a bookkeeper in Petaluma. Rounding out the family are Monroe, a Lhasa Apso, and Smokey, a Shih Tzu.

Vicki McAffee, who adopted cats from the Petaluma Animal Shelter and follows Scott’s exploits on Facebook, nominated him for his dedicated service to the community and his often courageous rescues.

“During the North Bay fires, Officer Mark was up at the fire area saving lives and rescuing countless animals,” she wrote in an email. “He also does so much for our community on a daily basis. He gets up at the wee hours of the morning and late night hours on his days off to help animals. He’s a pretty remarkable person.”

Scott never knows what kind of critters he will encounter each day. Usually it’s dogs and cats, but he has also saved a runaway tortoise, captured a curious coati and returned a wayward elephant seal to the sea. Last year, the police department called him when there was an alligator loose in a Petaluma neighborhood.

“That was interesting,” he said. “I’ve never been bitten. There have been a few close calls. I’d like to keep it that way.”

Scott is the third of five nominees for the Service Person of the Year award, which will be selected by a poll of readers. The winner will be honored at the 2018 Petaluma Community Awards of Excellence, co-sponsored by the Argus-Courier and the Petaluma Chamber of Commerce.

Email a nomination to matt.brown@arguscourier.com or write us a letter to tell us why you think your nominee should be considered for the service person award (no phone calls, please.)

Nominations can cover all aspects of the service industry, from cashiers and clerks to baristas and servers — not business owners, managers or directors.