Wildfires in California razed more than 3.2 million acres of land, which is nearly the size of Connecticut, since the start of 2020, reported Hollie Silverman of CNN, an American news channel. “These are intense, huge blazes. This is a huge, immediate, urgent problem," noted Tome Steyer, a billionaire environmentalist and former Democratic presidential candidate.
Governor Gavin Newsom and mayor of Los Angeles Eric Garcetti associated the intensity of the wildfires with climate change, opposing President Donald Trump’s argument that the fires were caused by poor land management. Garcetti informed Jake Tapper of CNN on “State of the Union” Sunday, “It's been very clear that years of drought, as we're seeing, whether it's too much water and too much rain in parts of our country right now, or too little.” With the onset of wildfires, are owners prepared to evacuate their pets with them? How will they do it?
What Do Americans Think of Wildfires?
Hannah Brenkert-Smith, Patricia A. Champ, and Amy L. Telligman of Rocky Mountain Research Station Research Note, whose objective is to improve the health and use of the US’s forests and grasslands, undertook a survey between 2007 and 2010, publishing their findings on 2013. The report revealed that 75% had experience with wildfire less than 10 miles from their property in 2007 and 2010. In 2007, 45% knew someone who evacuated in the last five years, up 58% in 2010. 27% of respondents in 2007 and 2010 were prepared to evacuate during wildfires. 20% knew someone whose residence was damaged or lost in the last five years, up 24% in 2010.
37% said they were concerned about wildfire damaging or affecting their house or other buildings on their property, up 39% in 2010. In 2007, 27% were concerned about their property/landscape, skyrocketing to 38% in 2010. 32% were worried about public lands near their home, up 34% three years later. In 2007, only 17% of respondents said they were worried about their pets. However, this figure rose to 33% in 2010. Further, 17% (2007) and 22% (2010) of respondents said they were concerned about their health or their family’s health when a wildfire occurs.
Regarding the likelihood of outcomes in case of a wildfire in their property, 62% noted that their trees and landscape would burn, up 74% in 2010. 55% said there would be some smoke damage to your home, sharply increasing to 70% in 2010. In 2007, 53% of respondents said the fire department would save your home, with the figure slightly rising to 58%. 16% of respondents in 2007 acknowledged the likelihood of suffering from financial losses due to loss of business/income on their property, versus 31% in 2010. In 2007, only 12% were concerned about their pets being harmed during a wildfire, but the figure rose to 22% in 2010.
In a 2019 survey by CMAP (Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning), Chicago’s comprehensive planning organization, most of the evacuees carried their wallet and cellphones (85%), pets (58%; 80% of evacuees had one or more pets), and clothing (45%). 40% carried other items and 39% carried medication and important documents. The evacuees also took their photo albums (27%), jewelry (16%), and food and drinks (9%). The respondents evacuated because they saw an orange glow or flames (25%), smelled smoke or heard explosions/noise (20%), and a neighbor called or came over (16%).
Preparing for Wildfires Now, Not Later
If possible, sign up for a warning system in your local community, advised Ready, a site that helps viewers plan ahead for disasters. Be sure that you are familiar with your community’s evacuation routes and find ways to leave the area. Since you will be bringing your pets, note that most evacuations centers are unable to accept animals, warned Yvonne C. Barkley of the University of Idaho, a school that has offered motivated students a transformative higher education experience.
Hence, it is recommended to contact your local animal centers, etc. about their ability to house your pets during an emergency. Your animals’ emergency kits should be a waterproof, large bin or tote with lid. Emergency kits should be placed in an accessible, dry location where temperatures do not get too hot or too cold. Ensure that your pets are wearing properly fitted collars containing their personal information, license, and rabies registration tags.
Consider including a loved one’s phone number if ever you and your pet get separated. For larger animals, you can braid a temporary ID tag into your horse’s main or tie a neck band. Copies of current vaccination/medical records and health certificates and other papers should be included in your emergency kit. Be sure to include a first aid kit containing cotton bandage rolls and tape, antibiotics, and the like. Label each one with your pet’s name and description. Prepare a small cat litter box, plastic bags, and newspapers for waste disposal. For larger animals, it should include dry shavings for stalls, a spray cleaner, and a hand sanitizer.
Surviving During the Wildfire
Evacuate the area immediately when authorities tell you to do so. Don’t wait! Leaving early is the best way to safeguard yourself and your pets. Dress for safety by putting on socks, long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, and closed-toed leather shoes or boots. Leather gloves, a hat, and a bandana are helpful too. When you see the earliest sign of a wildfire, bring your pets inside and keep them kenneled. If you are trapped, call your local emergency hotline and state your location. Emergency response could be delayed or worst, impossible. But you can turn on lights to help rescuers find a lot easier.
Surviving the Aftermath of A Wildfire
Listen to the authorities so that you will know when it is safe to return or if water is safe to drink. Once everything is clear, check the area if there are unstable trees and power poles, smoldering debris and ash pits, and downed live power lines, and spot fires. Check your pets for any injuries. Lung inflammation, edema from inhaling smoke, and burns are the most common complications you will encounter. Consult your veterinarian immediately and monitor your pets’ health for several weeks.
Wildfires are devastating and can catch people off guard. Owners should include their pets in their wildfire emergency plan and prepare their emergency kit prior to a wildfire.