By Arden Moore, a certified dog and cat behaviorist with the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. Arden is an author, radio host, and writer for Pets Best, a pet health insurance agency for dogs and cats.
It doesn’t take much to create a wildfire: a cigarette, a camp fire not properly extinguished or even a lightning strike. No matter the cause, you need to act quickly to protect you and your pets. You may only have minutes to evacuate from these fast-spreading flames.
For the past 15 years, I’ve lived in wildfire country – San Diego. And, I share my home with two dogs and two cats. Let me share with you ways I do my best to keep my pets safe from the dangers of wildfires:
1. Stay informed. Sign up for reverse 911, if it is available in your area. Emergency officials will call or text you if your property falls into a voluntary or mandatory evacuation area.
2. Create a mutual pet-buddy system. Provide a set of house keys to a trusted neighbor who is willing to rescue your pets in case a wildfire strikes when you are not at home. And promise to do the same for their pets.
3. Have fire-dousing tools within reach. Keep a fire extinguisher in your home and learn how to use it properly. Keep a garden hose that can water down all sides and roof of your home.
4. Create three pet disaster preparedness bags: one stored at all times in your vehicle; one near the front door and one near the backdoor. If a wildfire flares up quickly, you can access at least one or more of these bags with your pets. These bags should contain a few days’ worth of food and pet medication as well as inexpensive slip leads you can use to restrain your dog if she becomes stressed or fearful by the smoke-filled sky.
5. Pack items to treat fire-related conditions. Make sure your pet first aid kit in your vehicle and pet disaster bag contains a pet-safe eye wash, burn ointment, antiseptic wipes and socks (or doggy booties) so you can wash out soot and debris from your pet’s eyes and treat paws that may step on embers or shattered glass during the evacuation.