Here in the central Okanagan, forest fire season is truly nothing new . Mother Nature has been trying to burn this place down for years (if we aren't under water, we're burning amiright?).
When my friends had to flee Fort McMurray a few years ago, some had less than 5 minutes to grab everything they needed. Do you know what that does to the human brain? It basically turns you on derp-mode (no, seriously, I know people who ended up with their ski boots and people who cleaned their fridges out without grabbing a single thing they needed).
You think you're ready, but then it happens and you ain't ready...
(Thank you Kaitlyn Dickie for the photo)
You should, by now, have an emergency evacuation kit ready for yourself (photocopies of important documents, bottled water, spare underwear... you know, the essentials) - but, do you have something in place for your animals?
This should include not only a grab bag, but a plan.
First, let's get that bag packed. Easy peasy, like packing for a weekend away [except there will be more general chaos and panic]:
Food (enough for at least a couple days)
Leash (and harness for a cat)
Crate (yup, dig it out of storage, have it ready to go)
Do you have a friend or family member in the area you've asked to take your bubs in, should you need to get out of your home? Do that next.
Also, if you're not home at the time of evacuation - do you have a neighbour or someone close by with a spare key and directions to get to your pets?
Does your pet have ID on? Do you have their ID papers (or a copy of them). If you get separated, you may need this.
Is your gas tank full? Don't let it get under half for the rest of the summer.
psst - Fairfield Animal Hospital in Kelowna (250-860-6550) is offering emergency boarding facilities for cats and dogs (until you can make alternate arrangements)
Now, listen, when it comes to livestock and horses, you and I both know the barn kids probably already know this a heck of a lot better than I do. But maybe for the rest of us, this tid-bit of knowledge will help get your animal back.
A lot of the times, just having someone lined up to open all the gates and turn everyone loose is the best course of action if you haven't trailered your big guys out yet and are given no time to do so (again, friends riding horses down the side of the highway during the Fort McMurray fire... I feel you.)
Make sure duct taped hooves, halters, or just simply butts are labeled with livestock crayons or permanent markers so people can contact you.
psst - The farming community rallied last year and came together in a big way to provide hay, trailering, and boarding for a ton of animals throughout BC and AB. The facebook group, no doubt, will have another active summer. Whether you can help or need help, it's a great place to source fellow humans.
As well, Desert Park racetrack facility in Osoyoos is on the bandwagon early and offering boarding facilities free of charge (you'll still be responsible for feed and bedding) if you are under threat of wildfire. They can be reached at 250-495-8181.
Oh, you're still here? Wanna take things one step further? Because, you know, the deer and bears and little magic woodland creatures are fleeing for their lives? Cool, same. Here's a couple things we can do:
Leave water out
Don't pick up seemingly abandoned animals (a lot of the times Mamas will leave babies behind to go get food)
Call your local Wildlife Rehab center before attempting to tend to any animals (a list can be found right here)
Be aware, there may be some wandering wildlife in the urban areas of town.
Don't feed the bears seems obvious. While putting out some birdseed in your yard for our feathered friends is one thing,feeding the big guys (and medium-ish sized guys including raccoons and such) isn't the best idea. I get it, we want to help, but we also don't want them getting used to people. Wildlife is actually pretty adaptable and many thrive in the aftermath of a forest fire.
Additional Helpful Links
KelownaNow Fire Board
BC Wildfire Map
Drive BC Updates