Wild­fire!

Help keep your horse safe in the event of a wild­fire with these ex­pert tips.

Trail Rider - - FEATURES - BY RE­BECCA GIMENEZ, PHD

SSum­mer is high fire sea­son. If you live in an area at risk for wild­fires, take ac­tion now to min­i­mize a barn fire’s im­pact on your horse. If your area hasn’t seen a wild­fire for 15 years or more, this year’s El Nino weather pat­tern may in­crease the chance of dry­ing con­di­tions and dev­as­tat­ing fires. Fol­low these ex­pert steps to min­i­mize fire risk, pre­pare to evac­u­ate, and re­act safely should a wild­fire strike.

Min­i­mize Risk

• Gather in­for­ma­tion. In­sur­ers and your lo­cal fire depart­ment per­son­nel will walk through your barn to iden­tify haz­ards and of­fer sug­ges­tions for re­duc­ing fire risk. • De­sign for fire safety. De­sign or retro­fit your barn with fire safety in mind. Open ven­ti­la­tion, frost-free hy­drants, and 33 yards min­i­mum of de­fen­si­ble space around each struc­ture al­low fire crews to pro­tect your barn from fall­ing cin­ders and di­rect flames. Con­sider a fire­proof roof, such as steel or tile, rather than one made from shake or com­pos­ite ma­te­rial. (For best prac­tices, go to the Na­tional Fire Pro­tec­tion As­so­ci­a­tion web­site, www.nfpa.org.) • In­vest in a sprin­kler sys­tem. In­stall and main­tain an au­to­mated sprin­kler sys­tem. Although the ini­tial cost can be high, note that many in­sur­ance com­pa­nies will cut pre­mi­ums by as much as 50 per­cent if you have an au­to­mated sprin­kler. It’s also a de­pre­cia­ble ex­pense. • Min­i­mize fuel. Store hay and bed­ding in a sep­a­rate build­ing, keep your barn clean and cob­web-free, and en­force a strict “no smok­ing” pol­icy. Spray fire re- tar­dant to limit flame spread on ex­ist­ing wood sur­faces. • Land­scape with care. Use xeriscap­ing (land­scap­ing with drought-tol­er­ant plants) and Fire­wise plants to re­duce flammable veg­e­ta­tion around struc­tures. (For more in­for­ma­tion, go to www.fire­wise.org.) Avoid land­scap­ing with “kin­dling,” such as com­bustible mulch. Keep plants away from build­ings. • In­vest in al­ter­nate power sources. Con­sider in­vest­ing in gen­er­a­tors or so­lar­power sources to run pumps, ap­pli­ances, and your sprin­kler sys­tem in the event of a power loss. Store enough wa­ter to keep your horse hy­drated if you lose power.

Pre­pare to Evac­u­ate

Make evac­u­a­tion plans ahead of time. If dis­as­ter strikes, you’ll save time and quite pos­si­bly your horse’s life. Here are the steps to take now. • Plan evac­u­a­tion trans­porta­tion. How many trailer spaces do you have avail­able? If you pack that four-horse goose­neck trailer with your four horses, where will you put your dogs, cats, and hu­man fam­ily mem­bers? Would you have to make two trips to get the other four horses you own? • Train horses to load. Train all horses on your property to load into the trailer, no mat­ter what. Prac­tice load­ing each horse alone. Prac­tice when it’s hot, when it’s rain­ing, and at night. • Iden­tify short-term board­ing. Find an al­ter­nate place to board your horse dur­ing an evac­u­a­tion, both in and out of state. • Ready your rig. Keep your truck fu­eled and hitched to your trailer with ev­ery­thing loaded, so you’ll be ready to go within a few min­utes of an evac­u­a­tion warn­ing. • Know barn-fire re­sponse equip­ment lo­ca­tion. Make sure ev­ery­one in your horse­hold knows the lo­ca­tion of barn-fire re­sponse equip­ment, such as emer­gency phones, hoses, wa­ter sources, fire ex­tin­guish­ers, and bolt cut­ters. • De­velop an es­cape route. Drive through every road in your neigh­bor­hood to iden­tify es­cape routes. Keep in mind that of­fi­cials may close off roads to en­force the evac­u­a­tion. Do you have more

than one way out to safety by the roads? Keep printed maps in every ve­hi­cle for ref­er­ence in an emer­gency. • De­cide where to meet. Choose in ad­vance a place where ev­ery­one in­volved in your house­hold and horse­hold will meet off­site, if you’re evac­u­ated. • Per­form prac­tice drills. Post your evac­u­a­tion plan, and prac­tice it with sur­prise drills. Vary the time of day and drill re­quire­ments. Prac­tice catch­ing all the horses and load­ing them into the trailer. Haul out a few miles, and re­turn.

Re­act Safely

Note that it’s not flames that will force you and your horse to evac­u­ate, it’s the thick black smoke filled with tox­ins and poor air qual­ity.

If flames are so close that they threaten your barn, it’s usu­ally the wind­blown cin­ders (par­tially burned ma­te­ri­als) that will ig­nite a fire be­fore the flame front ac­tu­ally gets to your property. These can be blown in from hun­dreds of yards or even miles away.

If you need to evac­u­ate, fol­low these steps to help keep your horse­hold and house­hold mem­bers safe. • Avoid syn­thet­ics. Avoid syn­thetic (ny­lon or plas­tic) hal­ters or lead ropes dur­ing a wild­fire; they can melt, caus­ing se­ri­ous burns to horse or han­dler. Also avoid us­ing ny­lon sheets, fly masks, and other syn­thetic tack or equip­ment. Very few horse-cloth­ing items are fire re­tar­dant. • Pro­vide wa­ter and for­age. If you have to evac­u­ate, pack sev­eral days’ worth of wa­ter and for­age in your truck or trailer for each horse. • Iden­tify your horse. If you need to leave your horse at an evac­u­a­tion fa­cil­ity, make sure he’s prop­erly iden­ti­fied. (For iden­ti­fi­ca­tion meth­ods, go to TrailRiderMag.com.) • Stay back. Un­trained peo­ple — with­out res­pi­ra­tory pro­tec­tion, proper fire-pro­tec­tive cloth­ing, and proper train­ing — should never en­ter burn­ing or smok­ing barn struc­tures or zones. • Shel­ter in place. If you can’t evac­u­ate your horse in time, have a shel­ter-in-place plan. Don’t leave your horse in your barn; house him in a pas­ture with all com­bustible veg­e­ta­tion re­moved or plowed un­der. Shel­ter-in-place mea­sures are con­sid­ered to be very dan­ger­ous and should only be used where there isn’t time to evac­u­ate your horse to a safer place. • Con­sult a vet­eri­nar­ian. Con­sult a vet- eri­nar­ian im­me­di­ately for af­ter­care due to any air­way com­pli­ca­tions from smoke and toxic fumes. Tox­ins re­leased dur­ing burn­ing can se­verely dam­age your horse’s lungs and block the ab­sorp­tion of oxy­gen into the blood, caus­ing as­phyx­i­a­tion. Flames don’t nec­es­sar­ily need to be vis­i­ble for this to oc­cur. Tiny par­ti­cles can also cause health is­sues. Af­ter a fire, he might ap­pear med­i­cally sta­ble for days, then crash with se­vere pneu­mo­nia. TTR

Sum­mer is high fire sea­son. If you live in an area at risk for wild­fires, take ac­tion now to min­i­mize a barn fire’s im­pact on your horse

Make sure ev­ery­one in your horse­hold knows the lo­ca­tion of barn-fire re­sponse equip­ment, such as emer­gency phones, hoses, wa­ter sources, fire ex­tin­guish­ers, and bolt cut­ters.

RE­BECCA GIMENEZ, PhD

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