It was a hectic scenario with two major wildfires burning, but Canadian Disaster Animal Response Team (CDART) crews were able save pets and horses with the help of generous volunteers.
Four cats, nine dogs, one bunny and nine horses were able to be pulled from the Rock Creek fire, as crews and volunteers began responding to the blaze Aug. 13 supporting Emergency Social Services (ESS) in Kelowna.
“We were so grateful for the support of the Kelowna riding club, that’s where we have the horses,” said Deborah Silk, Commander with CDART.
The club members weren’t the only ones to step up to the plate during the frantic operation.
“We had tremendous support from a boarding facility in Kelowna called Whiskers and Woofers. The services of a veterinary hospital in Winfield called the Tri Lake Animal Hospital.”
Teams with trucks and trailers, most of them volunteers, went in late Thursday night to load up the horses.
“They had a very limited window of opportunity that we were given by the EOC (Emergency Operations Centre) and they went in and they were able to evacuate these nine horses to a staging area in the (evacuation) alert area,” Silk said.
A search and response team was pulled out from the Rock Creek fire because of fires starting up near Oliver.
“Their homes were being evacuated so we had to pull them out,” Silk said.
Volunteers from Kelowna then came in to pick up the horses. Then around midnight Friday CDART began setting up to support Emergency Social Services
“We had an incredible search and response team and the Oliver riding club took the training a couple of years ago, so they are all part of our search and response team,” Silk said.
The situation was frantic. One woman moved her horses from the Sidley Mountain fire to Oliver, and had her horses re-evacuated to Sidley Mountain once again.
Pets have been making their way home since the highways started becoming safe to drive again.
“Most of them are returned, they opened up Highway 3 and a lot of people were able to get back to their homes. We still have some dogs out and we still have some cats out,” Silk said.
Around 30 volunteers at the Rock Creek fire and 20 volunteers at the Oliver-area fires helped pull the operation together as well as local ranches the D-Bar-K Ranch in Oliver helped with evacuations and Silk said the Thordason family was especially helpful with their property.
“We used their property as a staging area and they were unbelievably kind, and generous and skilled,” Silk said. “But they have used up every bit of (horse) tack that they have.”
They are still looking for donations of horse tack which can be dropped off at the Penticton Lakeside Resort.
“Thank you to all the people who donated hay, dog food and supply food,” Silk said.
Unfortunately, not every animal can be saved.
“Sadly there are lives lost, some livestock has been lost,” Silk said.
CDART has a mortality team on standby to support those who lost pets or livestock if required, Silk said.
If you’re looking for a lost pet call the CDART emergency line at 250-809-7152.