Equine Rescue

Horse Owners Urged to Prepare for Active Wildfire Season

story by Pat Raia as it appears in The Horse

Horse Owners should Plan NOW for Emergencies

While firefighters work to contain a massive wildfire in New Mexico, the blaze has forced few horse evacuations, according to agricultural authorities in that state. But national authorities believe 2012 could see an increase in wildfire frequency and have cautioned horse owners to prepare for fires before they occur.

On May 16, wildfires erupted in the Gila National Forest near Glenwood. By June 1, the blaze had burned 216,650 acres and was just 10% contained. New Mexico Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Katie Goetz said that despite the size of the fire, the village of Mogollon was the only town evacuated so far.

“It’s a very small village of only about 15 or 20 people, and the one family that did have a horse was able to relocated to a family member’s property out of the fire zone,” Goetz said.

A total of 40 horses residing in pastures on two separate ranches were also safely transported to locations outside the fire zone, Goetz said.

The New Mexico blaze is indicative of the active wildfire season predicted by the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), an organization that works with state and local agencies to establish wildfire preparedness plans. Thanks to dry conditions and warm temperatures, the agency predicts services an above normal significant wildfire potential in western and southwestern regions through September. Some fires in those regions could necessitate human and animal evacuation, said NIFC spokeswoman Robyn Broyles.

“Mandatory evacuation and other wildfire-connected orders are issued by local law enforcement departments,” Broyles said. “So first people should know who to talk to and who to get news from about evacuations, then they need to know where they’re going to go in case of evacuation and what they’re going to do with their livestock.”

These “know-before-you-go” plans should include identifying specific routes out of the fire zone and making advance arrangements to place evacuated horses with friends, family members, or others whose properties are located well away from the fire.

Owners who cannot evacuate their animals should prepare for them to take “shelter in place,” according to firefighter Gina Gonzales, of the Loveland Fire Rescue in Loveland, Colo., and an assistant instructor for The Large Animal Emergency Rescue Inc.

Gonzales advises owners to stock enough food and water to accommodate their horses for five to seven days. She also recommends that owners relocate horses from barns to paddocks, even if barns are equipped with sprinkler systems. In the event horses become separated from their properties, owners should use indelible marker to write contact information on their horses’ hooves or on duct tape placed on the horse’s neck. Owners who evacuate should take with them a packet containing information about their horse, including photographs. Finally, she recommends owners place signs on their fences advising firefighters and other local authorities that animals remain on the property.

For an inspiring and gripping first-hand account of how the Louisiana State University‘s Equine Rescue Team and Habitat for Horses saved hundreds of horses and other animals following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, read Horses of the Storm and Straight from the Horse’s Heart

Finally, Broyles recommends that owners who reside in wildfire prone areas create “defensible spaces” around their properties. Defensible spaces are 100-foot perimeters that surround bans, paddocks, homes and other structures to discourage fire from advancing through the property. These spaces are devoid of overgrown brush, flammable chemicals, or trees that could fuel cinders emanating from wildfires. Livestock left on the property should be placed within this defensible space.

Owners who have created defensible spaces on their properties should also maintain these spaces, Broyles said.

“Landscaping doesn’t always take defensible spaces into account, but trees and other plants that grow have to be trimmed,” she said.

Slideshow of Jerry Finch, president of Habitat for Horses and R.T. Fitch, now president of Wild Horse Freedom Federation working with LSU Vet School to save horses after hurricanes Katrina and Rita ~ photos by Terry Fitch

6 replies »

  1. What a Shinning example You are RT FITCH, and all the people who aided the horses and all the animals in that horrible storm……. There are chosen people everywhere who are guided by love and preservation of all Our beautiful Horses ……. God Bless each and everyone of them !!!!!


  2. As New Mexico has nearly zeroed out all their beneficial free roaming wild horses/burros this massive fire is not surprising. The horses were there for a reason. Each species has a purpose in it’s native habitat and humans can not stop intervening. As blm continues their genocide & destruction, wildfires and desertificaton will become the norm.




    June 5, 2012 (Larkspur, Colorado) – Front Range Equine Rescue (FRER) has discovered that Unified Equine, LLC has applied to the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to begin the slaughter of thousands of American horses at a plant in Rockville, Missouri. Despite Unified Equine’s extensive efforts to hide the location of the site of their newest effort to begin slaughtering America’s horses, FRER has obtained this information, and will now begin legal and community-based efforts with other groups across the country to prevent the opening of this slaughterhouse. FRER will also continue its parallel efforts to end the slaughter of American horses for human consumption once and for all.

    Horse slaughter for food is a national disgrace, given the fact American horses are not raised as a food animal and the especially brutal methods used to kill them. FRER has mounted an extensive legal battle to keep American horses from being slaughtered for food, in or out of the country, in light of last November’s Congressional appropriation of funding for horse meat inspections. In the last few months, along with the Humane Society of the United States, FRER has filed two Petitions for Rulemaking [http://www.frontrangeequinerescue.org/front-range-equine-rescue-horse-slaughter.php] asking the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the FSIS to enact rules and regulations which would prevent American horses from being slaughtered due to the toxic nature of horse meat. FRER has also approached the New Mexico state government regarding multiple, years-long environmental violations by Valley Meat in Roswell, New Mexico, which is also attempting to begin horse slaughter. FRER’s efforts have attracted national attention, and FRER intends to continue to amplify its legal strategy for as long as it takes to eliminate the possibility of horse slaughter in America and prevent horses from slaughter across its borders.

    The application for the Missouri plant states that it intends to open in September 2012, so FRER is acting quickly to prevent any chance of Unified Equine reaching its goal. There has been no U.S. horse slaughter since it was eliminated five years ago; a recent poll shows at least 80% of Americans oppose horse slaughter. Every effort to begin this brutal practice will be fought, and the corporate interests anxious to make a buck off the backs of former work, competition, companion and wild horses will be exposed. The USDA and FDA have documentation as to the danger and illegality of producing horse meat from American horses. FRER calls on all concerned citizens and groups to support its efforts by contacting state, local and federal officials and voicing strong objections to the resumption of this horrific practice in America. For more information on how to help, contact info@frontrangeequinerescue.org.


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