When it comes to wildfire preparedness, planning for every member of your family is important. This includes all pets, especially if you have multiple animals, animals with special needs, or large animals. Having a plan and knowing how to execute it is key.
Do not wait for an evacuation order to start evacuating large animals. Road closures may be mandated early, which means you will not be able to get back onto your property to evacuate the rest of your animals. In extreme weather conditions be prepared to evacuate immediately. If there is a Santa Ana wind event, please be prepared by having your horse trailer connected and loaded with feed, water buckets, water, medicine, and supplements. Maintain situational awareness through PulsePoint, www.alertwildfire.org/sdge/, or other fire awareness applications. Be prepared and ready to evacuate early.
Before an emergency occurs:
- Maintain defensible space on your property, including 20‘ along driveways and 100’ around horse turn out areas. This distance will increase if the turnout area is on the top of a hill, or surrounded by dense brush. Keep the space free of manure, mulch, hay, shavings, and composting as they are flammable. Trees should also be limbed up to 6-8 ft. above the ground and shrubs removed from underneath them to avoid a tree canopy fire. The removal of flammable species of trees, shrubs, and grasses around your turnout area will increase the chances of survival for your animals in the event of a fire in the event you cannot evacuate them. Species such as eucalyptus, pine, bamboo, cypress, junipers, acacia, palms, sumac, rosemary, sage, fountain grass etc., should be removed from close proximity to your animal enclosures. This will provide a safer place to put your animals in the event you cannot evacuate them. It also provides firefighters with a safe area in which to work. For more information on flammable vegetation and fire resistive alternatives, please contact the fire district.
- Network with neighboring ranches that have defensible space close to you and will allow you to evacuate to their location. Contact your local veterinarian, humane society, or animal control to learn about resources that may be available to you in your area during a disaster situation.
- Become familiar with potential pet or large-animal evacuation centers, keeping in mind that not every shelter opens for every emergency. The media will be notified as soon as an evacuation center has been established.
- Make sure you have a crate for each of your pets along with appropriate supplies for several days. This includes litter boxes, leashes, medications, food, fresh water, etc.
- For large animals, have a plan for transporting them, whether by personal trailer, a friend’s trailer, a third-party hauler, etc. Have a contingency plan in case you are unable to get to your property or your third-party hauler is unavailable.
- Collaborate with your neighbors and create a plan in the event you are not home when evacuation orders are given or roads are closed.
- Have all of your animals microchipped and keep their information current. Have a picture of you with your animal as proof it is yours in the event you get separated or is required by a facility.
During an emergency:
- Gather all of your pet’s items together, just as you would your own, and load them in your vehicles.
- For smaller animals, confine them to one room where it would be hard for them to hide, such as a laundry room or bathroom. This keeps them in a safe, out-of-the-way place during the loading process and makes them easier to find when it’s time to go.
- Write your contact information on your large animals using non-toxic spray paint or a permanent marker. This will make it easier to reunite with your animals after the emergency is over.
- Firefighters are not trained in handling large animals and will not assist with loading animals into trailers.
- Heed all evacuation orders and road closures. They are in place for your safety and the safety of the emergency responders.
If you are not able to evacuate large animals:
- Do NOT turn large animals loose. This is hazardous for both the animals and emergency crews in the area.
- Locate a corral or arena made of fire-resistive materials surrounded by defensible space and confine them to it. Make sure they have access to water but no combustible materials inside the open-air enclosure. Do not leave them in a barn or enclosed space.
- Contact San Diego County Humane Society Emergency Response Team and let them know what type of animals are stranded and where. Their team members have special training and work with cooperating agencies as part of the incident. They will assist with removing animals from evacuation zones if possible.
- The Facebook Group “Southern California Equine Emergency Evacuation” may be another good resource, although they are not always allowed into evacuated areas.
The Fire Prevention Division of the Rancho Santa Fe Fire Protection District will be more than happy to schedule a site visit with you to evaluate your property and provide guidance to reduce the wildfire threat to your home or property. Please email your site visit request to the Fire Prevention Division to schedule an appointment.
Horse Evacuation Checklist
The National Fire Protection Association has complied a list of items that should be included in your horse evacuation kit. Below are some of the items they recommend including. For a complete list, please visit their website at NFPA.org.
- Ownership records and registration papers
- Microchip paperwork
- Photos of you with your horse showing unique markings or tattoos
- Spray paint or livestock crayon
- ID tag that can be braided into the horse’s mane
- Vaccination/heath records
- Medications with dosages
- Tack, such as lead rope and halters not made from nylon material, which can melt
- List of important phone numbers
- Your phone number
- Animal center or boarding facility
- Friends or relatives in case you cannot be contacted
- Food and water for three to seven days
- Fly Spray
- Fly mask
- Horse blanket
- First Aid kit and wound care
- Feed you can mix with water in case your horse refuses to drink
- Banamine in case of colic
Additional Animal Resources
San Diego Humane Society Emergency Response Team
San Diego County Animal Services
24-hour emergency help: 619-236-2341