It’s that time of year, late spring. The beautiful lush green pastures are taking on a slight brownish tinge. The leaves are crisp and dry under our feet. The warm days and mild breezes are drying things out – fast. I think….wildfire season is approaching. My mind races back to the Clover Fire, September 9, 2013. It was a beautiful day, breezy, clear and warm.
Late morning, Bob called to me and pointed north to a small billow of smoke. He said, “Get the book, it’s going to be a bad one”. He knows about things like that. I quickly handed him my Big Red Book, called 911, and listened for a minute to the scanner. Yup, a wildfire near the water tower on Clear Creek Road, just six miles north, moving out of control toward us. Bob starts calling those nearest to the origin of the fire. “There’s a fire coming toward you. Get your animals and get out”, I hear him say over and over to each person on our list. They know the drill, no chatting. That call means business.
My Big Red Book knows all. It contains 18 years of compiling home phone numbers, work numbers, cell numbers, and addresses. It also knows the animals living on each property within a 10-mile radius of Bella Vista Farms. Bob continues to make calls until the sky around us is black with smoke. While Bob made those life saving calls, I filled all water troughs and buckets, haltered all horses, donkeys, ponies, and llamas. I kenneled all dogs to prevent panicking. Parrots and bunnies were covered and wet down. Cats were secured in a cool trailer. Rain-birds on the house, shop and barn were turned on. We had plenty of drinking water and a good supply of food for us and the animals. Our land had been cleared well, with clearance around all structures. We had prepared well. The fire missed us by ¼ of a mile. We had been spared.
What would you do if you had to move – and move fast? The time to prepare is now, not when a fire is bearing down on you.
Prepare a Grab-and-Go bag. Some things to include would be collars, leashes, all important phone numbers, towels, paper towels, food, water, bowls, a radio, flashlight, dog licenses, medical records, drinking water, cups, medications and rabies certificates.
Pet carriers should be clean and close at hand, one for each small pet - birds, bunnies, cats, dogs, etc. Your horse trailer should be facing out and easy to connect to. Practice loading a young or hard to load horse. Keep handy a halter and lead for each horse. Pack grain, hay and a water bucket. All adults in the family should know how to connect, load and pull the trailer. A full tank of gas and aired tires just may save you and your pets’ lives. Duct tape your phone number on each animal if they must be left behind.
Load and evacuate early, if possible. Animals load much easier when they are not under pressure. Dogs will hide, cats will scatter and horses will refuse to load in a panic situation. Know where you plan to go. All family members should know this plan. Share this information with your neighbors and friends.
Use the buddy system with neighbors in case you are not able to get in to get your pets. They should have written permission to treat or board your pets. Most evacuation centers do not allow pets, so make a plan as to where your pets could stay, short or long term. Keep these phones numbers in your Grab-and-Go bag.
Micro-chipping your pets could ensure a safe return if you are separated during a fire. Call Shasta County Animal Control at 245-6065 or Haven Humane at 241-1653 for information regarding lost or found pets.
Large address numbers on your gate will help emergency personnel or animal control officers locate your property.
Walk yourself and your family through your plan. Do it today. This could save the lives of yourself, your family, and of course, your pets. For much more information on animal evacuation Do’s and Don’ts, you are invited to attend Bella Vista Farms annual Fire Meeting on May 25th at 11:00AM. County officials, Cal Fire, surrounding fire department, Animal Regulations, Haven Humane and Redding Rodeo Association will be available to answer any questions and offer valuable information. If you are interested in attending, call me at 347-0544.
Have a safe summer.
Bella Vista Farms Animal Sanctuary
4301 Lower Gas Point Road
Cottonwood, CA 96022