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Tips On Evacuating Ranch Animals From Fire Areas
 

 By Rebecca Highlander

 

The following are tips and suggestions for people rescuing animals, from your friends in southern Oregon
who survived the 500,000 acre Biscuit fire.

See also Emergency Evacuation Resources for Horses and
Ranch Animals in Northern California

Number one message: Start early, don't get trapped

If in doubt, take them out. What you may find, and suggestions as to what to do:

Horses locked in

  • Bolt cutters, wire cutters, hammers, gloves.

Horses not trained to load

  • Do what you know. Bring ropes, whips, flags, extra people. 
  • Do not tranquilize unless you are qualified. 
  • If you can't get them in a reasonable length of time, leave them. It has to be like triage. Get the ones you can. 
  • Send stock trailers if possible for horses not trained to load, then load through a gate from a pen, stall, panels, or in a corner.

Horses gone

  • Make a note of time, place, anything else pertinent and keep moving.

People being indecisive about going

  • Hugs, reassurance, leave your phone number and get the horses out. .Better safe than sorry.
  • Discuss danger/consequences of road closures, trees across roads. 

No halters/leads, no extra ropes

  • Bring as many as you can, different sizes.

Cell phones, land lines overloaded

  • Try to stay off phones. Get all info in first call. Write everything down.

People away from phones

  • Make a whole plan, share all contact info when you first talk to them.

Road closures

  • Take maps even if you know the area. It s going to look very different, and usual routes may not be available. 
  • DON'T go in if you aren't sure you can get out. Fire engines won't even do that.

Smoke

  • It's probably worse than you think. Take particle masks, inhalers if you've ever used one, and just don't go if you asthma or any other breathing problems.

Human needs

  • Take LOTS of water, snacks, toilet paper, first aid supplies, flashlights, good boots and gloves, extra glasses, fully gassed vehicles. You may need to be out there a lot longer than anticipated. Emergency mode makes us ignore our own needs, but this could go on for many days. We need to take care of ourselves to be able to be of service
  • Dress appropriately in gloves, boots and long pants. Wear cotton if possible, avoid synthetic if you're anywhere near the fire area.

Crowded roads

  • Don't go to haul horses unless you know exactly where you are going. TAKE MAPS. 
  • Tell looky loos to go home. 
  • Drive slowly and carefully no matter what is going on.

Safety considerations

  • Don't go alone. 
  • Take flashlights, sharp knife, twitch, animal first aid supplies, pillow cases or burlap bags for small animals, extra collars and leashes for dogs, animal marking crayons, polaroid or disposable camera, notebook and pens, MAPS.

Identification, record keeping

  • There may be animals that end up in big groups, or to places with many, even hundreds of animals. Don t think you ll recognize them for sure. They should be marked with livestock crayon, like for endurance rides, available at many feed stores. 
  • You can attach tags to halters (shouldn't be left on if at all possible), or braid tags into forelocks, top part of mane, or top part of tail. 
  • Spray paint can be used in an emergency, maybe a phone number. 
  • Keep a notebook with where the animal came from, a thorough description (look under lips and manes for tatoos and freeze brands), any notations about injuries, or special care needs, and where the animals went. 
  • Take digital or disposable camera pictures from the front and both sides if possible.

Small animals

  • Many people here who went to haul livestock ended up moving small animals, too. Take sturdy crates if possible, pillow cases or burlap bags are fine. 
  • Cats especially need to stay very carefully confined; many were lost here. Better to be uncomfortable for a few days than lost forever! They will need to be kept somewhere cool and shaded, and offered water frequently. 
  • Kennels at homes are great for dogs. Stalls work well, too, if they definitely can't get out. 
  • ID small animals carefully also. 
  • Take muzzles if you have them, or use gauze if necessary to make a figure eight around the muzzle, crossing under the jaw and tie at the top of the head behind the ears. Remove as soon as possible and keep dogs cool.

Aftermath

  • People housing animals may need stall cleaning help, supplies, buckets, feed, etc. 
  • Try to examine and temp anything that looks sick, isolate if possible. 
  • There may be many helpful groups of volunteers - be sure they are supervised properly to prevent accidents and escapes. 
  • As early as possible, make things clear between owners and people housing animals. Unfortunately there were big board bills presented by some barn owners to evacuees after it was all over. Make sure expectations are clear and upfront. The great majority of people here were extremely generous and helpful during the emergency.

Bless you all and take good care. These thoughts and ideas came from many people who helped with animal evacuations in southern Oregon during the Biscuit fire.

    

Rebecca Highlander is a free-lance author living in southern Oregon who has written numerous articles on horse handling and other subjects of interest to horse owners. For more information, please contact Rebecca at wildwoolyfarm@gmail.com.

 

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