Fire season will soon be upon us, and with that will be the potential need to evacuate our horses. Unfortunately, the current Large Animal Response Team (LART), which is based in San Juan Capistrano, has stated that they no longer are able to facilitate any future evacuations anywhere else in OC. They are going to instead focus on supporting evacuations in San Juan Capistrano ONLY.
Currently it’s “Every person for themselves.”
That leaves all of the horses in every other city in Orange County in a very precarious position because there is no other organization in Orange County that is trained or coordinated to help evacuate horses in high-risk fire areas such as the canyons. While the local equestrian group, ETI 357 has worked to create an evacuation plan for the canyons, without a coordinating team to tell people where to take their horses and where to pick them up, the plan has gone from a community effort to “every person for themselves.”
For those of us who have been through multiple evacuations, we know that it is essential for there to be some main point of contact for rescue workers, people who have trailers and can help evacuate, and those without trailers who need to evacuate. Animal Control does not have the ability to take on the challenge of coordinating an evacuation, and they only have one trailer; OC Sheriff and local police departments don’t want the responsibility of this, either. What this means is that during a catastrophic event like a fire, flood or mudslide, there is no department who is in charge of equine evacuations. The police say to call animal control. Animal control says to call the fire department. The fire department says to call the police department. There is no one currently in our government that can help to coordinate this very real need.
We need an equine evacuation plan before it’s too late
This is a huge problem because obviously people want to help, and others need to evacuate. OC’s current supervisor, Don Wagner, has been quoted as saying that he believes that there isn’t a demand for any sort of equine evacuation plan or support. He must be purposely ignorant if he believes that there is no need for a government position that will help to coordinate an evacuation and to create plans that will help get horses and their owners out of the way as efficiently as possible so they are not in the way of firefighters and other rescue workers. Creating evacuation plans is not necessary just for horses, but in order to help prevent the loss of human life as well.
What you can do to help:
We are asking everyone who lives in Orange County or who has a horse in Orange County to please call or email Don Wagner and Katrina Foley and tell them politely that:
(a) It is imperative that the government create a position to help coordinate equine evacuations, and that this position needs to be year-round as fire season in California is year-round.
(b) It is imperative that Orange County FUNDS programs like LART in areas outside of San Juan Capistrano to help with these evacuations.
(c) The government should be coordinating with individual areas to help create and maintain individualized evacuation plans and routes and working with the community, law enforcement and rescue workers to determine the most efficient way to evacuate.
Don Wagner- Chair of OC Board of Supervisors
Katrina Foley- District 5 Supervisor
Please be polite and respectful, but let them know that this need is real and the next evacuation is not IF, but WHEN.