To my horse friends in the north bay, this will not be new. For others, I hope this is helpful… Having been through the 2017 fires, 2019 Kincade Fire, and now Walbridge, as a horse owner, I felt compelled to share some knowledge and observations. Prepping for a disaster/emergency starts well ahead of when that moment actually arrives. You start months or even years ahead. When time is of the essence sometimes you only have six or seven minutes to load up and get out of the fire zone. Train your horses to get in and out of the trailer without issue. Take them for short drives so they’re not stressed by traveling if they’re not used to it. Maintain your trailer as if you had to evacuate tomorrow. Tires get replaced every 5 to 6 years regardless of how good you think the tread looks. Tires that are 20+ years old are a complete death trap when trying to evacuate. Also keep a good spare tire. Have a water tank in your trailer, or keep unopened 5 gallon jugs of water on hand. Be ready with buckets and hay bags with feed for 3-4 days. Electrolytes, bute, and first aid supplies for horses and humans. Have a lunge whip and two lunges lines in the trailer in case loading calls for that technique. Keep a can of spray paint in case you have to write your phone number on your horse when you turn it loose. Keep a sharpie pen to write your phone number on the hooves. If you have to turn your horse loose take the halter off. If it catches on fire it will burn your horse’s face. Or it could get hung up on something. Keep a fire extinguisher in your trailer. Have a cell phone battery to charge your phone. You’re not going to have time to charge it up in a wall when you are on the go. Use a fanny pack for your phone, phone charger/battery, and keys so these won’t get misplaced in your scurry. Have a game plan… A, B, and C. Just because you evacuate once doesn’t mean it’s going to remain safe. Fire moves fast. If you don’t have a trailer, contact people who you can keep on standby in the event of an emergency. Know what barn or stable you’d go to and have these discussions with barn owners long before an emergency actually arises. Do a mock fire drill as practice. That will tell you where the weaknesses are in your game plans. Get out with your horses and get out early. If the fire never actually reaches you the air quality will be so horrible you’ll be happy you got out when you did. Be diligent and not lazy when it comes to getting these things in order. No one is immune from fire in California. Be safe, be well.
– Patrice Doyle is an attorney at Singleton Schreiber. She is a horse owner, avid horsewoman, and passionate about equine disaster preparedness and response.