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When fire threatens…

- October 1st, 2021 - Trainer Tips

By Sheryl Lynde | Horsetrader columnist

Every time I think. “Well, that can’t happen to me…”, I then find myself in a situation where it is, indeed, happening to me.

When the August wildfires first broke out in our area, I thought they were far enough away to pose any immediate danger, and they were. The Colfax fire got closer, fast. I called the owner of the property where my mares were located and she said not to worry — the fires were far enough away, but stay close to my phone.

Within 30 minutes, she called, letting me know evacuations were taking place in surrounding areas. She instructed me to be available to bring my trailer to her place. My trailer was currently located at a different location where I was pasturing my geldings. I had decided to go to my trailer anyway, hook up, and head her way. By the time I had reached my truck, they called to say they were being evacuated. They had to load their horses and they were heading for the Nevada County Fairgrounds. I told them I was on my way.

I had bought ID tags that were fixed to my horses’ manes. These tags contained all my horses’ information – names, ages, my name and phone number and my vet’s name and phone number. She hooked the tags onto their manes in case I was delayed, and I was. The route I needed to take to get to my trailer was a sea of cars, literally a parking lot. I couldn’t move.

The owners of the property had a two-horse trailer and they had a mare and a young filly just three months old. I told them I was stuck in traffic and unable to move. Fortunately, I had been provided the emergency evacuation phone number for emergency transport services. When I called, they said they would do their best and put me on the list. I was stuck in traffic for an hour and a half. Luckily for me, the owners of the property were able to make it to the fairgrounds, get their horses settled, head back to their place and pick up my horses. Just as they were there loading my mares the emergency service that I had previously called was there to do the same.

Traffic finally moved, and I was able to make it to the fairgrounds and get my horses checked in and settled. Within a two-hour timeframe, the fairgrounds had received over 300 animals. The community was fantastic. Volunteers appeared from everywhere, checking in horses, setting up pens, watering, donating hay, transporting animals and of course our firefighters on the front lines.

As we all have been advised, fires can jump firebreaks, highways and change directions within minutes. There is always something that can happen and usually does. I hadn’t planned on two accidents unfolding between me and where I needed to pick up my trailer causing a major traffic jam. It wasn’t that traffic was slow or even just crawling, it was stopped for 90 minutes. Fortunately, my mares easily loaded for the property owners in a trailer that was unfamiliar to them. One of them did hesitate for a bit but loaded after minimal coaxing during a very stressful situation by someone other than me.

So, some questions you need to ask yourself during fire season in California:

  • In case of an evacuation, do you have a place to take your animals?
  • Do you have reliable transportation for them — and how easily will they load in case the transport or handlers are unfamiliar?
  • Do you have some way to ID them in case gates need to be opened and they need to be let out?
  • Have you “buddied up” with someone that you can rely on for help?
  • Are you familiar with the emergency evacuation services in your area and do you have their phone numbers?

Trailering is huge. I know my horses are well-prepared in loading and unloading, but even one of mine hesitated a bit going into a different trailer. The ID tags I had purchased were kept in the tack room and ready to go. These tags stayed in their manes for four days, until I removed them. I used ICE Manestay Equine Emergence ID tags, and I was very pleased — they are available online. The emergency evacuation services number that I had called did get to my horses. The owners of the property and I were so impressed that they came. I was so grateful to so many people, including the owners of the property going back to pick up my horses; they knew where to go and when.

Aligning myself with them in a new area was the best thing I could have done.

Please be prepared, stay aware, don’t delay and help whenever possible.


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