In the western U.S., many owners rarely have their horses confined to a barn. But when wildfire approaches, it’s no less important to be prepared and follow safe measures getting out of harm’s way.
When my neighborhood participated in a mock evacuation last month, I had a Plan A and a Plan B.
Plan A (ideal):
Load horses into already-ready trailer.
Grab the dogs and my “Go Bag” and get out of the canyon.
Plan B (less ideal, but still a better option than leaving them in a fenced and fire-threatened space):
Open the pasture gates and let them fend for themselves.
Here are additional recommendations gleaned from past reporting and as a former 1st Responder:
- Join an emergency response network like Nixle to get emergency text messages and emails.
- Practice hooking up and loading in a rushed, stressed environment. Your horses need to be okay (with you, with the conditions, even with the handling of a halter and lead line) in a rushed, stressed situation.
- Know where you will be placing horses (local fairgrounds?) and ask horse-y friends if they could offer a back-up location.
- Have a Go Bag ready with important paper work, brand inspections, health certificates, as well as passports, vehicle titles, birth certificates, cash, and water for you and your horses.
More ideas from my neighbor, Linda Walters, a FireWise ambassador who had to quickly evacuate when a 2012 fire threatened her home:
- Rehearse what you would need to do in an actual evacuation, particularly how to deal with animals.
- Remember that your neighbors may not be able to help in an emergency if they are also evacuating, so think about what your other resources are. You may have very little time. When the Weber fire started, we only had 30 minutes from first warning to the “Bug Out” order. Some folks had much less.
- Create your Family Evacuation Checklist. Some things to consider putting on your list of actions to take when you are put on evacuation alert or being told to evacuate:
Corral pets as they will run and hide in the excitement
Put your Go-Bag in your vehicle
Switch OFF all attic and/or crawlspace ventilation fans.
Close all doors, windows and blinds (keeps smoke out of house)
Leave all doors unlocked (allows firefighters emergency access)
Remove remaining flammable outdoor furniture and umbrellas from decks and patios
Remove propane BBQ grills with tanks from decks and patios
Place any fuels (gasoline containers, diesel containers, kerosene, propane tanks, etc.) clustered together in an open and visible area along the driveway, well away from any structures and vegetation and flag it
Valve off your propane tank and leave lid open
If your home is equipped with a back-up generator, switch it OFF
Take any alternative energy power systems OFFLINE
Drive Carefully, don’t speed, watch for incoming emergency equipment. Don’t drive into heavy smoke
Check out Ready.gov for more information.