Wildfires and Livestock

Wildfire season has exploded early in 2014!  Because of the ongoing drought, trees and grasses across the state are tinder dry.  Today, there are two large active fires that are not under control.

The Slide Wildfire has captured attention of folks all over Arizona.  Whether it’s the destruction of pristine wilderness, the bravery of the firefighting crews, the danger to people and their homes in the area, or the efforts to provide food, shelter and information about the fire, we are all affected in some way by this disaster.

In these types of emergencies, we at the Animal Services Division of the Department of Agriculture are concerned with the health and safety of livestock in the area.  For example, if you live in Kachina Village and have a horse or two, would you know what to do in an evacuation?  Do you have a plan?  Could you leave your horse while you evacuated?  For how long?  Where would you move your horse and how would you transport it?  What if you had a few goats or chickens? How would your situation be different?  These are all good questions to ask before a wildfire strikes.

Thankfully, in the case of the Slide Fire, very few residents have horses or other types of livestock.  What happens if there’s an event in the area like a rodeo or horse show?  Is it safe for you and your horse to attend?  What do you do if the event grounds need to be evacuated?  Do the organizers’ have an emergency plan? If so, who’s in charge?  How do you find out about the plan?  Will the smoke from the fire make me or my horse sick?  These are excellent questions to ask yourself before heading in the direction of an active wildfire.

At the Animal Services Division of the AZDA, we have been actively monitoring the status of the Slide Fire and developing plans to respond to these very issues.  Our Livestock Services Officers are located around the state and are key members of any local emergency response.  Hats off and thanks to LSO Randy Servis, who has been in contact with the Incident Management Team and area livestock owners to offer our assistance should the need arise.  Remember, safety is the number one priority.

The Slide Fire and other fires around the state are causing unhealthy air in several areas.  Horse and livestock owners should consider the amount of smoke in the air for their animals, as well as for themselves.  If you are planning to attend an event where there may be smoke, it’s a good idea to consult with your veterinarian – especially if that event includes lots of activity for the animal.  Strenuous activity is smoky areas is not a good idea, even for healthy animals.

Smoke tends to blow with the winds, especially during the heat of the day, and settle into the canyons and low-lying areas during the evenings.  During the Slide Fire, we’ve had reports of heavy smoke miles away based on the weather.

Be sure to monitor current and upcoming weather to be prepared for what you and your animals will encounter.  The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality has air monitors near the Slide Fire available online http://www.phoenixvis.net/PPMmain.aspx

There is a call center where you can obtain information about the impacts of the Slide Fire.  Please call 928-679-4173.  The call center is open from 6:00 am to 7:00 pm.  Or visit the Coconino County web site at http://www.coconino.az.gov/