Texas Horses Avoid Mass Wildfire Evacuations

As wildfires continue to skip across Texas, the blazes have not yet caused mass evacuations of horses in affected areas, emergency management officials said on Wednesday.

"We've had a number of fires over the past several weeks including 30 today," said Dave Tomkins, Emergency Management Coordinator for the Texas Animal Health Commission in Austin. "But so far, we've not heard there have been wholesale evacuations of horses."

What evacuations did take place, he said, were the result of individual owners seeking safer ground for their equines. That was exactly the case in Young County, Texas where fires were under control on Tuesday after scorching an estimated 10,000 acres Sunday and Monday. (For more on this see Wildfires Threaten Texas Horses.)  

"Some people did move their animals," said Chief Deputy Carl Magee of the Young County Sheriff's Department, "but to property they own that was out of the fire zone."

When disasters force livestock evacuations, Tomkins said most horse owners rely on friends, family, and other ranchers to get horses out of harm's way. Coping with larger evacuations is also a largely local affair, with community governments making public facilities available for temporarily housing livestock.

"An agreement between the City of Graham and Young County allows an arena used for rodeos to be used for evacuations," Magee said. "And in emergencies, the county also calls on a team of contract cowboys to round up displaced animals and bring them to the arena until their owners can claim them."

According to Tomkins, communities across Texas are being encouraged to create animal response plans of their own.

Texas' wildfire season began in January, Tomkins said. Since then more than 500,000 acres have burned, and firefighters are still responding to spot fires throughout Central Texas.

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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