No time to prepare
Horse owners in wildfire danger zones know that the call for evacuation can come at any time.
Currently, more than 95 large, active wildfires are burning west of the Rocky Mountains across seven states with no relief in sight, according to authorities. Dry, windy conditions exacerbate the situation as U.S. Army soldiers have been called upon for the first time since 2006 to help battle the flames.
Colorado’s Carrie Terroux-Barrett helped coordinate rescue and evacuation efforts during the state’s past massive wildfires. She says during the 2013 Black Forrest Fire more than 500 horses were evacuated.
Terroux-Barrett offers these tips to horse owners dealing with wildfires.
– Ensure your horse knows how to step right onto the trailer and stand tied to make evacuation time a breeze. Evacuations are not the time for a trailer loading practice session.
– Take at least one bale of hay and a bucket for each horse you are evacuating.
– Have a first aid kit pre-made and ready in your trailer. If you need to evacuate, chances are you may feel the effects of the thick black smoke. Take rags and plenty of fresh water for yourself and the horses in case of traffic jams on the evacuation route.
– Make sure you have your proof of ownership documents for your horses. For some that may include brand inspection papers, a Bill of Sale, Coggins, registration, microchip info, photos, and insurance documentation or some combination of those mentioned.
– If you are unable to take your horses, turn them loose, without a halter on. Close all barn doors so they can’t get back in.
– If you turn your horses loose, write your phone number on them. Use spray paint or shoe polish on the horses’ bodies. You can also write your number on their hooves, although it might smear.
Terroux-Barrett says she prefers a ribbon in the mane or tail for the phone number, over putting it on the hooves. If the ribbon gets caught on something it pulls out easily.
– Nothing plastic, like fly masks, should be left on your horses — plastic melts.
– If you take your horses to an evacuation center, have your horses marked in some way. Sometimes even the evacuation centers have to evacuate.
– If your horse is in a large pasture area, cut or remove the fence’s corners and leave the gates open. When horses can’t find their way in the smoke they will follow the fence lines.
Having a plan and being ready to implement that plan is the first step in getting you and your horses out of danger’s way safely.