Too Soon to Assess Wildfire-Related Equine Injuries

While firefighters continue their efforts to contain wildfires burning in Texas, a veterinarian located in one fire zone said it is too early to determine how many horses have sustained wildfire-related injuries.

Due to record summer temperatures and persistent drought, several wildfires have flared in Texas this year, according to information contained on the Texas Forest Service website. In the past seven days Texas Forest Service has responded to 176 fires for 126,844 acres. On Wednesday, Texas Forest Service responded to 20 new fires for 1,422 acres, including new large fires in Red River, Smith, and Cherokee/Rusk counties.

In Magnolia, Texas, where some of the worst fires burned on Wednesday, Jonna Johnson, a member of the Greater Houston Horse Council Disaster Committee and of Montgomery County Search and Rescue-SAR TECH II, said firefighters are making headway to contain the blazes, but thanks to persistent dry and windy conditions, progress is slow.

"Overall progress has been made, however the fire blew up again (on Wednesday) as winds increased and sometimes changed direction," Johnson said.

Most people in the Magnolia area fire zone have evacuated or continue to evacuate, Johnson said.

"However not all horses were evacuated as some owners did not have time to get them out," she said.

Some owners who did evacuate their animals had to relocate their horses more than once in order to stay ahead of moving fires, said Kristen Slater, DVM of the Kasper & Rigby Veterinary Associates in Magnolia.

"Some (horses) were evacuated to a farm and then that location had to be evacuated. There's been a lot of moving around," she said.

Slater said that so far, she has received few fire-related service calls. But that does not mean horses--especially those sheltered in place--might not show fire-related conditions or injuries in the days to come.

"After owners are allowed to go back to their properties, we may start seeing laminitis from horses standing on hot ground or pneumonia related to smoke inhalation," Slater said.

When local authorities do lift evacuation orders, Slater advises owners of all horses, including those evacuated, to peruse their properties for fire-related damage and lingering hazards.

"Owners who have evacuated their horses need to make sure the ground is cool; that there are no active embers around, before bringing their horses home," Slater said.

Owners should also examine fence lines to make sure those structures are not damaged, and clear their properties of debris.

"Make sure there is no exploded glass or nails in areas where horses are kept," she said.

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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