Okanagan animal response team wants to help you prep for wildfire season

ALERT: Prepare pets for wildfires with evacuation plans, grab-and-go kits and mutual aid agreements

Animal Lifeline Emergency Response Team volunteers have been busy training ahead of wildfire season, conducting exercises across the Okanagan, such as rescuing plush cats from hotel rooms. With limited resources, however, ALERT is advising pet owners to create their own emergency plans. (Facebook photo)

Emergency Preparedness Week starts this Sunday and the Animal Lifeline Emergency Response Team (ALERT) is reminding pet owners to have an evacuation plan in place.

Deborah McBride, director of operations for ALERT, told the Capital News that her volunteers have been busy training for wildfire season, conducting exercises across the Okanagan.

They have rescued plush animals from rooms at the Penticton Lakeside Resort, scooped plastic ducks out of the same hotel’s fountain, rounded up fake horses from the paddocks at the Penticton Equestrian Centre, and more.

READ MORE: Emergency Preparedness Week – is your family ready

Still, McBride said it “scares the heck” out of her and her volunteers when people think ALERT is their emergency preparedness plan.

People, rather, need to have their own plans, McBride said, and ALERT is available to support them.

“We can support people’s plans. We don’t want to become their plan because we only have so many volunteers and we only have one stock trailer. That’s not going to go very far if the whole area is going to be evacuated,” she said. “We’re happy to sit down with them and get them started.”

Though overwhelming, McBride said that once you get started with a plan, the details will fall into place.

She said people should have, at a minimum, 72-hour grab-and-go emergency kits ready for themselves as well as their pets. Kits should include the essentials, such as fresh water and medications.

She also advised that kits for pets include a USB stick with photos of the animals, digital documentation of their medications from the veterinarian as well as the vets’ after-hours emergency number.

For a list of what to pack and other resources, visit the PreparedBC website.

READ MORE: Provincial program to bring disaster planning into B.C. stores

People who own cats and dogs should ensure their animals are crate-trained, McBride continued, in case they have to evacuate to a hotel.

For larger animals, she said her organization has noticed hobby farms that purchase animals, but not a trailer, which would be needed in the event of an evacuation.

“It’s something that they have to take on the responsibility for if they’ve taken on the responsibility of having animals,” she said.

She also advised creating buddy systems with neighbours and mutual aid agreements with people in different areas, and carrying the names and numbers of those people with you when you leave your property.

“If there’s a big sale on at Costco and everybody in the neighbourhood is going down to get some fantastic article, buddy with your neighbours so that one person can go and the other can look after your property if something happens,” she said. “Then you’re not all going to be out of the neighbourhood when the roadblocks come up.”

If an alert comes, McBride had additional advice: keep your cats and dogs inside and your larger animals close to home.

“When you get that knock on the door and you’re told to get out of there in 10 minutes, you don’t have time to look for the cat,” she said. “As soon as you go on evacuation alert, you have to keep your animals close.”

READ MORE: Dog reunited with family 101 days after California wildfire

Animals that would be difficult to evacuate, such as a mare about to give birth, should be evacuated at alert time, she added.

“Don’t wait for that order to come down because you will not have time.”

When it comes to house fires, McBride said, there is even less time to evacuate.

“Grab-and-go bags are used for when you have a little bit of warning and with a house fire you don’t have any warning, you just have to get out yourself,” she said.

“We can help people prepare for what to do in the event of an interface fire or flooding … but for a house fire that’s a whole other avenue. That’s just a prime example of tragedy.”

Interface fires are fires that have the potential to involve buildings and forest fuel or vegetation simultaneously.

McBride said she knows someone in the Okanagan who has built a ‘catio’ — an outdoor enclosure for cats — and is training their cat to go out to the catio if the smoke alarm goes off, “but in my experience … it may not play out that way,” she said, adding that many animals instead hide under the bed.

READ MORE: Dog dies in fire that destroyed home on Westside Road

She said she has heard of pet owners breaking the windows after they exit their burning house, but smaller animals may not be able to jump that high, “and then you’re just adding oxygen to the fire and that can make it worse.”

Many people are not home when house fires happen, McBride added.

“We had a fire recently in Peachland where the woman had just walked her three little dogs. She was a great animal mom. She put them back in the house and off she went to the gym,” she said. “When she got back her house had burned down. Somebody was able to break down the door and one of the dogs got out, but the other two dogs and cats perished.

“There isn’t an answer. We can’t take our animals with us everywhere we go.”

READ MORE: Okanagan fire victim Amy Hansen speaks out on the loss of her four pets

When it comes to house fires, McBride emphasized prevention.

“Just be FireSmart,” she said.

Wilson Landing Fire chief Don Bennison also advised keeping your property as FireSmart as possible.

“Make sure there are no bare wires, overloaded wires,” Bennison said.

READ MORE: FireSmart family day comes to West Kelowna

In the event of the death of a pet, McBride advised grief counselling, for which ALERT provides referrals.



karissa.gall@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

An Animal Lifeline Emergency Response Team volunteer rescues Smokey the cat from a Kaleden house fire in October 2018. (Contributed photo)

Just Posted

Snow could be seen Oct. 12 on Highway 5, near the Coquihalla summit. (Contributed)
It looks like an interesting winter folks

Winter will be colder than normal, with above-normal precipitation and below-normal snowfall

Paramedics transported a cyclist to hospital after he collided with a vehicle outside the Wendy’s at Penticton Plaza Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020 (Jesse Day - Western News)
Truck collides with cyclist outside Penticton Wendy’s

Police are investigating the collision

Riders of all ages participated in 2019’s Axel Mercx Granfondo in Penticton, with over 1600 registering for 2020 before COVID-19 forced its cancellation. (Western News File)
Granfondo ‘Penticton’s best opportunity for an event in 2021’

The long-distance cycling event was cancelled this year after 1600 riders had already registered

Join the discussion with Boundary Similkameen candidates. (Photo submitted)
Boundary Similkameen candidates to debate health care tonight

Everyone is welcome to join the online event

FILE – People wait in line at a COVID-19 testing facility in Burnaby, B.C., on Thursday, August 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
167 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death recorded as B.C. enters 2nd wave

Three new healthcare outbreaks also announced

A 20-year-old man was pronounced dead following a three vehicle collision on Highway 1 west of Revelstoke Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020. (File photo)
One dead after Highway 1 crash near Revelstoke

20-year-old man pronounced dead at the scene of a three vehicle collision west of Revelstoke

Steven Stuart Gardner has been charged with possession of a firearm contrary to an order and possession of a firearm without a licence. He has also been charged, under the Motor Vehicle Act, with driving while prohibited. (Crime Stoppers photo)
Car connected to shooting, dumped in Chase leads to unrelated arrest

Investigation of Kamloops shooting leads police to a rural Chase property

Volunteer registered nurse Stephanie Hamilton recieves a swab from a driver as she works at a Covid-19 testing site in the parking lot at Everett Memorial Stadium on Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020 in Everett, Washington. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
13 more COVID-19 cases in Interior Health region

There are 624 cases in the region since the start of the pandemic

The body of Natsumi Kogawa, 30, was found in the Gabriola Mansion on Davie Street, Vancouver, in September 2016. Vernon man William Schneider, who was found guilty of second-degree murder, now awaits the decision of his appeal hearing Monday, Oct. 19, 2020. (Vancouver Police Department photo)
No decision yet for Vernon man appealing murder sentence

William Victor Schneider was convicted in relation to Natsumi Kogawa’s death in 2016

Vernon once again boasts the lowest gas prices in B.C. Oct. 20, 2020. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
North Okanagan boasts lowest gas prices in B.C.

Gas going up, and down, in Vernon specifically

This 2020 electron microscope image made available by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases shows a Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 particle isolated from a patient, in a laboratory in Fort Detrick, Md. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-NIAID/NIH via AP
At least 49 cases of COVID-19 linked to wedding in Calgary: Alberta Health

McMillan says the city of Calgary has recently seen several outbreaks linked to social gatherings

École de L’Anse-au-sable. (Google Maps)
COVID-19 confirmed at Kelowna Francophone school

École de L’Anse-au-sable is not affiliated with local SD23

Vernon North Okanagan RCMP received footage of a suspect vehicle littering hate flyers around 21st Avenue in Vernon Oct. 17, 2020. (RCMP)
WATCH: Footage offers lead in hate-fuelled flyer probe: Vernon Mounties

Vernon police received footage of an older model green truck distributing flyers in the early morning hours Saturday

Most Read