Volunteer group creates plan to house Island animals in case of wildfire

A volunteer in the Malahat area is offering a trailer, two stalls and paddocks. In Metchosin, a property owner has a paddock and a small pasture at the ready.

They’re both part of a growing team that Brenda Hanna and Anne Mabberley are ­putting together around Vancouver Island to ensure that animals — from livestock to pets and birds — are taken out of harm’s way in case of a wildfire.

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Hanna, who has two horses on a farm in Cedar and says she could house more if needed during an emergency, decided in 2018 that it was time to start Vancouver Island Emergency Livestock Evacuation to provide options for owners in an emergency.

She said the group’s Facebook page provides a list of ­volunteers offering refuge for animals as close as possible to their homes. The group, which has 440 members, allows those needing help to connect with volunteers.

“Not everyone has trailers,” she said. “Not everyone has other places to put them.”

A fire scare last year in Cedar, where horses and goats had to be moved, brought home the need for a plan, she said.

“The big thing is where do you get information?” she said. “How do you get help?”

Similar initiatives are in place elsewhere in B.C. and in Alberta, but Hanna believes hers and Mabberley’s is a first for the Island. Hanna said she has broken up the Island into six zones, from Zone 1 in the north Island to Zone 6 in the south, which includes Greater Victoria and Port Renfrew.

“So that when you’re in an emergency situation, you can either look in your zone or go to the next zone,” she said. “It’s wonderful, the supporters on Vancouver Island.”

Her next step is trying to arrange for central sites for evacuees and their animals in the event of a wildfire. “If we have a central location where animals and people can go to congregate and then disperse to individual properties, that’s what I’m hoping for in the future.”

While the Island hasn’t faced a fire emergency so far, despite drought warnings, she said she has been keeping a close eye on the situation in other parts of B.C.

“This year, of course, it’s really escalated as to what’s going on in the Interior,” Hanna said. “The Island has had nothing like the Interior’s had as far as evacuation of livestock, animals in emergency situations. Every day things could change.”

The Dashwood Volunteer Fire Department near Qualicum Beach is sharing the group’s information on its website, Hanna said.

Hanna said she went through an evacuation when she had a ranch in California and had to save a number of Belgian horses. The fire’s movement was “very, very quick,” she said, which meant advance planning was key.

The Facebook page (facebook.com/groups/249600862496408/) contains tips on being prepared, she said, which can include having a ready supply of hay and feed, as well as a medical kit.

Hanna can be reached at 250-616-5858.

jbell@timescolonist.com

 

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