During the summer of 2003 Southern California fell siege to wildland fires. The Mountain Fire in southwest Riverside County was the defining incident which brought to the forefront the need for a formal and organized animal rescue program in Riverside County. There were many lessons learned - it was realized that government agencies don't have enough staff to handle a massive animal evacuation; the services of many volunteers were not able to be utilized because they had no formal training and there was no organizational structure; and animal rescue groups must be part of the emergency plan so they don't impede fire engines and emergency vehicles in the course of their work.
Following the aftermath of the Mountain Fire, an ad-hoc committee was formed with representatives from Riverside Counties Sheriff’s Department, Riverside County Department of Animal Services, Riverside County Fire Department (OES) and the California Highway Patrol.
The committee realized the need for an initial training program and continuing training in order to provide for the safety of the volunteers. Initially a basic class was developed consisting of an overview on the areas of Incident Command System, Law Enforcement Issues, Animal Evacuation Procedures, Fire Line Safety and Animal Handling. After completing the Basic Class, volunteers were issued an R.E.A.R.S. identification card. Later in the year continuing training included Flood Training, Trailer Inspection and Manoeuvring. To date 279 volunteers have completed the Basic Class!
The original ad-hoc committee has evolved into the R.E.A.R.S. Council that oversees all aspects of the organization.