Emergency equine evacuations

By Scott Breeden

In the face of wildfire, should horses be turned loose?

One problem with that, besides danger to the horses, is that large animals on roads can block emergency vehicles as well as the vehicles of people trying to escape. Large animals ought to be removed ahead of time. How to do that was the subject of a public meeting, June 27, at the OC Parks Library of the Canyons.

Horse owners and others were welcomed by Inter-Canyon League’s Joanne Hubble (in charge of disaster preparedness/emergency communications) and Connie Nelson (large animal evacuation coordinator), who then introduced representatives from several county agencies involved in emergency management.

Vicki Osborn of the OC Sheriff’s Department characterized emergencies as, basically, fire or flood. She urged everyone to register with AlertOC in order to receive automatic voice, text, and/or email messages whenever such an emergency is declared. When that happens, Vicki also alerts Joanne, Connie and the Inter-Canyon League president.

Andy Kovacs of the Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA) said that for each wildfire incident, OCFA teams up with the sheriff’s department and other agencies to create a plan of attack, considering estimates for where the fire will be in one hour, three hours, nine hours, and so on. A goal for every wildland fire is to limit it to 10 acres or less, but “it is hard to get ahead of Santa Ana Wind-driven fires.”

That last point seemed to be illustrated by last October’s Canyon 2 Fire, which burned rapidly westward from Anaheim Hills into Irvine Regional Park. Park animals were evacuated, but, reportedly, workers at the stables were not familiar with its evacuation plan, and people did not know where to take their horses.

To eliminate delay and confusion, Marc Hedgreth, president of the Equestrian Coalition of Orange County, proposed that a county-wide volunteer organization have a single point of contact, such as OC Animal Care, to direct members on how to help with animal evacuations. This would be similar to San Juan Capistrano’s current Large Animal Response Team (LART), a group of volunteers trained to evacuate and shelter large animals during emergencies. Hedgreth is also a LART senior instructor.

One problem with the current system, is that LART members are activated in response to agency “mutual aid” requests, but this means that an agency must first exhaust its own resources before asking for help. Eliminating that requirement would help with activation “in a timely manner.”

For now, though, Connie Nelson will compile a census of large animals (including pigs) to help define evacuation plans for specific areas. 

Those plans will specify staging locations, like parking lots, from which animals would normally be transported to the OC Fairgrounds. Rich Gomez suggested using existing Trabuco plans as models. Vicki Osborn will supply maps.

OC Animal Care employees, by the way, are not first responders like firefighters or sheriff deputies. This means that they cannot enter a back yard or house to evacuate a pet without police escort.

The play’s the thing—twice!
Saturday, Aug. 11, the Misfits Theatre Company brings culture to the canyons with A One Act Festival at the Silverado Community Center.  Like the park district’s summer concert series, this is budget-friendly theatre—“Bring a CAN and pay what you CAN.”  Show time is 2 p.m.

The following Saturday, Aug. 18, the Modjeska Shakespeare Players will present Shakespearean play highlights and songs in—you guessed it—Modjeska. Cost is free, but you must register at letsgooutside.org/activities/2018/08/18/modjeskas-summertime-shakespeare. The curtain rises at 11 a.m.

The canyon archive
The Inter-Canyon League’s History Committee is organizing the collection of canyon-related documents and artifacts formerly stored at the Silverado library. As volunteers categorize each old newspaper clipping or object by subject and date, chair Melody McWilliams enters the information into a computerized catalog while Carl Armbruster uses a scanner to add a digital image of each document or photo. Historical questions are frequently answered by Judy Myers, herself occasionally historic.  In the archive’s “1969 Flood” section is a clipping showing Judy with her newborn son, who arrived just after mom was airlifted out of Silverado by Marine helicopter due to the road being underwater. At last report, mother and child are still doing fine.

Tree tip
Avoid over-watering oak trees. Except for drought years, established coast live oaks don’t need summer water, which encourages root rot that can topple an otherwise healthy-looking tree. Patches of dead leaves on branches might be caused by oak twig blight, but that’s not as serious as goldspotted oak borers, tiny beetles whose larvae can eventually kill a tree by chewing away just under the bark.  If you see small D-shaped exit holes in the trunk, that is likely the sign of a tree whose bark is worse than its blight.