There are currently more than 250 forest fires burning in British Columbia, with new fires being reported each week. At the time of writing, there are at least 10 evacuation alerts in effect across the province, and costs to fight the fires could exceed $400 million by the end of the season.
The risk of death, property loss, and risk to pets, especially horses and other farm animals, requires that those of us living in the area plan ahead to keep everyone safe in the event of a disaster or evacuation. If you can help transport animals, have space to keep them, can help in the logistical evacuations, or need help, please make yourself aware of the resources available to you through both volunteer groups and your local government/municipality. Planning is crucial because in the event of an evacuation, you are very unlikely to be allowed back onto your property! Leaving your animals behind may mean that it will take days to get help for them, or in a worse-case scenario, help may not be available at all.
Please check out these links for evacuation awareness and the sharing of contact information (not intended to be a complete list of available services):
To report a wildfire – Call Toll-Free 1-800-663-5555 or *5555 on most cellular networks
Emergency 911 – Cowichan Valley Response Team – a Facebook group set up to help those living in the Cowichan Valley (and beyond)
Canadian Disaster Animal Response Team – The Canadian Disaster Animal Response Team (CDART) is the emergency animal rescue division of Critteraid. Volunteers are mobilized when local authorities request CDART’s help and when the Provincial Emergency Program’s Emergency Social Services is activated. In specific communities, CDART has long-time established teams but will answer requests for help through local, provincial and federal government agencies. CDART also encourages cooperation between other animal groups, veterinary associations, levels of government and disaster relief agencies.
Cowichan Valley Regional District Emergency Alert Information – via this site you can register for emergency alerts.
British Columbia’s Emergency Livestock and Animal Evacuation Group – A Facebook group intended to help organize information for available trailering, housing of horses or other farm animals in need of emergency evacuation. Please add contact information to the group’s files if you can help with transport or temporary housing.
Pet Safe Coalition of Canada Society – This group has a singular mission to save animals during disasters with their rescue and recovery services and to mitigate the impact of disasters on animals through educational outreach programs. If local animal organizations are unable to respond to animal emergencies, PSCS will step in to help recover, shelter, and reunite animals with their owners.
Vancouver Island Emergency Animal Evacuation Network – A Facebook community for Islanders to help one another with animals in an emergency.
BC Government Wildfire Service – Report wildfires or get the status on an existing fire