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Click here to read article   Getting Your Animals Out in an Emergency

Sadly, the devastating 49 Fire that swept through north Auburn in late August affected not only homes and residents, but many pets who lived in the fire zone.

Despite herculean efforts made by first responders, Animal Services officers and volunteers, at least 20 pets died, estimates Animal Services Program Manager Mike Winters. The fire moved too swiftly to save all the animals trapped by smoke and flames.

Animal Services Officer Terri Koeckritz estimates the fire area was home to at least 120 animals, many of which they weren't able to rescue. While several home owners were able to take their pets with them, some just didn't have time.

"We were not able to get all the animals out in this fire," Winters said. "We received a number of calls to go into the evacuation area, but by the time we got the calls, many of the homes were already destroyed with the animals inside."

Animals Services was one of the first responders to the scene and helped as many pet owners as they could. The Sheriff's Department also assisted. One story coming out of the fire is about a home already burning and the pet owner dragging his dog outside. The dog freaked out, bolted through a window back into the house, and when a deputy tried to rescue the dog again, the officer was bitten. The dog perished in the fire.

"Animals will go nuts in an emergency because of anxiety issues. They aren't used to all the activity of emergency personnel and all the people, the smell of smoke and the sense of trouble. They go into survival mode," said Officer Koeckritz. "We'll see in the next several weeks animals slowly coming home, especially cats as they are more self-reliant."

The impact of the fire affected not only the homeowners and their pets, but those who responded as well.

"It was devastating," said Officer Koeckritz. "People were asking for their pets and it was very hard knowing the number of homes going up in the flames and how many animals that perished in those homes. It was a Sunday afternoon and many people were coming home from church or the grocery store to find their homes and pets gone."

Not all the animal stories coming out of the fire are sad. Officer Koeckritz was relieved and happy when one her calls ended with the family coming home to find their home intact with their two dogs and two cats safe.

Tips to getting your animals out

Before an emergency happens, pet owners should already have a plan in place to make arrangements for their animals. Keep carriers, leashes, collars, halters, medications or a list of medications and a blanket or toy handy. Pets will feel happier and more comfortable with a familiar item.

"Everyone should think ahead and have an emergency plan in place," Winters said. "They should already know what to do with their animals and have an escape route planned. If you think ahead, you will be more prepared.

"People should take their animals with them, which we know is difficult in a mandatory evacuation," said Winters. "Home owners can't rely that someone else will be able to come in later and rescue them. As fast as this fire moved, neighborhoods of homes were blocked and no one could get in."

If an animal is left at home, Animal Services advise that pet owners put a note in the window with the type of animal and the name of the pet. Dogs are more likely to respond if they are called by name. Cats often will hide, usually under a bed or under an outbuilding such as a shed or barn. In one case, a homeowner who hadn't been home when the fire started called Animal Services to alert them they had a pet inside and an unlocked back door.

Know your neighbors. If you aren't home, your neighbors can help locate your animals. In the 49 Fire, one little neighborhood girl assisted authorities because she knew her neighbor had a cat and she was able to crawl underneath a bed to find it.

Animals left behind need an identification tag for easier reuniting with owners during the aftermath of an emergency. All shelters and veterinary offices scan for microchips when a lost or injured animal is brought in.

Livestock owners should practice quickly loading animals into trailers. If called, Animal Services will try to load large animals into trailers if needed, or walk horses and alpacas out of the danger zone.

"Once you smell or see smoke, you should start preparing halters and lead ropes," said Officer Koeckritz. "If you don't have a horse trailer, call Animal Services or the Sheriff's Office immediately to give us a heads up on your location and the quantity of animals."

The 49 Fire was a horrific event in our community. It's lingering remnants remind us how important it is to be prepared.

"Each emergency is a learning experience and each time we come more prepared," said Winters.

Click here to read article   Fire Depts Urge Citizens To Test Smoke Detectors

Grass Valley Fire Chief Jim Marquis states, "Two recent nighttime structure fires here in Grass Valley where smoke detectors were either inoperative or not installed have once again underscored the need for our citizens to make absolutely sure home smoke detectors are installed and functioning properly. Both fires could easily have resulted in multiple fatalities had residents not been awakened by the sound of the fire."

Click here to read article   On Fire Lines, a Shift to Private Contractors

Monday 18 August 2008 - NY Times - Faced by a series of intense fire seasons and demands on firefighters nationwide, officials are increasingly working within a de facto public-private partnership. "The public always assumed that there was some private presence, but I don't think they know that we cut line right next to hot-shot crews," said Jess Wills, the operations manager at Firestorm Wildland Fire Suppression, a for-profit company in Chico, Calif. "We're out there firefighting right next to them."

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