Fire Danger! Are You Pet-Evacuation Ready?

As seen in The Cambrian

When the Colby fire near Glendora, Ca. exploded, I watched the sienna-tinted smoke plume darken a bright blue sky. I was about 250 miles north of the January wildfire, returning home on U.S. Route 395.  Cal Fire officials warned that extreme red flag conditions were in effect throughout much of California—in January—usually one California’s wettest months.

Little has improved since the Colby fire. As I drive along California State Route 1, the Monterey Pine forest tempts that red flag warning with swaths of brown or simply dead-from-drought pines. The eucalyptus and oaks don’t look much better. The Colby fire showcased how hot embers can propel like angry baby dragons over a mile from their birth in a burning tree, and then land on a roof or another nearby tree and spread the wildfire like lava. I’m less than one-mile from a drought-ridden Monterey Pine forest. The chance of my evacuation orders in case of fire, are likely.

What caught my attention with subsequent Southwestern-state fires, were the unsuspecting evacuees frantically trying to save their pets during evacuation.

I thought I was prepared.  A fire-proof box holds my important papers; I’ve packed my priceless photos in a trunk near a doorway. But am I completely ready to evacuate my beloved cat—who has health issues to boot?

After doing some homework I learned that it’s not just fire, but any other emergency (like earthquake), that actually puts my cat at risk from my lack of preparation. If you haven’t done this already for your pet, may I suggest that your follow my error-correction and be prepared because until our Southwest states are smothered in rain again, fire is a real risk, as are other natural and unplanned emergencies. The following advice comes from and the Humane Society.

1) Keep at least three days of food, water, and feeding bowls packed and ready to go at a moment’s notice.

2) ID your pet. This includes all or any of the following: microchips, collars  and/or tags with your cell phone number, photos of your pet. suggests, “A picture of you and your pet together…along with breed, age, sex, color and distinguishing characteristics.”

3) Have at hand a crate or pet carrier complete with your pet’s comfort items like a toy and blanket. Keep a sturdy leash or harness ready.

4) Your pet’s medical information and name of veterinarian in a water-proof container in the emergency pack.  Enough medical supplies for at least three days. (For me, I’m getting an extra copy of my cat’s daily medication prescription should his vet also be emergency-impacted.)

5) Sanitation supplies like litter box, disposal bags, cleaning tools.

I’ve packed all of this in a bright orange bag with “Cat’s Emergency Bag” hanging from the handle.

But, what if an emergency occurs and your pet is home alone?

The Humane Society recommends:

• Find a trusted neighbor, friend, or family member and give him or her a key to your house or barn. Make sure this back-up caretaker is comfortable and familiar with your pets (and vice versa).
• Make sure your back-up caretaker knows your pets’ whereabouts and habits.
• Let your back-up caretaker know where your pets’ food is and where you normally feed them and keep their water bowl, and if they need any medication.

I’m posting a sign at my door that has a photo of my cat and notes that he is inside. also notes, “Pet owner should be aware that many evacuation shelters do not accept pets, and they must plan their destination in advance. Hotels and motels may be willing to lift “no pet” restrictions in an emergency. Friends and family members living outside the area may be able to provide shelter too. Please check with your local animal shelter or emergency management office to determine if a pet friendly emergency shelter will be set up in your location.”

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