June 20, 2013

My Voluntary Evacuation of Dani

As to my horse voluntary evacuation....The mandatory evacuation zone is 3 miles away, the pre-evacuation is only 2 miles away and the information I had was the winds could shift south (which they did last night a little). I made the decision to move my horse even though she was just outside the evacuation area for many reasons...


1) She's a difficult loader and I wanted the time needed to get her moved without road closures and without crazy traffic
2) My job is emergency preparedness and I am activated for this fire...being distracted with every new update and being worried how it would affect my love was getting in the way of me DOING my job;

3) Smoke is pretty bad where she was at, it is everywhere but I feel better now that she is out east towards Calhan and well out of harms way! Thank you Laurie for taking her in for my peace of mind. Now I can get down and dirty with the response. I appreciate every one's concern but there are many (included many friends) in really dire circumstances and my heart breaks for them....

My job is Emergency Preparedness and Response for Public Health. As I was activated for the Black Forest Fire my life has suddenly full of activities, meetings and Emergency Operations. It sounds exciting but it’s not, I deal with the coordination portion of a response….aka the paperwork.

I couldn’t easily leave my job to take time to move Dani if she were suddenly in a pre-evac or evacuation area. I don’t have a trailer and I didn’t even have my truck that week! Steve had left the Sunday before the fire leaving from DIA to fly to what ever job he was going to. We decided he should take the truck since I rack up more miles piddling around town.



Critters of all sizes called KCRC their temporary home

The fire started on Tuesday June 11. On June 12th I received information about the winds changing and felt that uneasiness in my stomach and the beginnings of panic. How could I expect GG and her husband to transport my horse if we need to evacuate KCRC? I needed to get this done and get it done fast. My boss was understanding as I had a near panic attack trying to figure out a plan with my limited resources and with my guilt that having Dani near the fire would prevent my mind from being able to focus on my job.

I took off for KCRC, called GG’s husband to see if he could take me out to Laurie’s. I’d already discussed this with Laurie and she was more than happy to take Dani in, Uschi’s horses were already there. Very quickly the fire moved from where it started to the west of Black Forest regional Park and headed towards Falcon. Uschi’s house was in the pathway so she got her horses out before being told by authorities. A lot of horse owners weren’t so lucky or couldn’t get home….this is the unfortunate thing I had to deal with in the aftermath at the EOC, lots of dead large animals. I’m not going to get into that as I sit here writing and shudder a little inside.


Dani's barn is just about at the bottom of the map below the blue area.  VERY CLOSE!

GG’s husband and even GG the night before were not too concerned about the fire. The smoke near KCRC was intense even if we weren’t in the evacuation area. I may have received many looks from people as I was evacuating my horse FROM KCRC when they were evacuating horses TO KCRC but I just knew I couldn’t have the worry in the back of my mind. Every wind shift or forecast would send my mind to my horse first and not to what I needed to do to get nursing homes evacuated or get medical supplies to the Red Cross. I was in a different position compared with the general public.

I told them they could fill my stall while I was gone and we’d arrange when I would return with Dani so I wouldn't displace an evacuee. My pitch fork and some buckets were put to use as well. At the peak of evacuations KCRC housed about 75 animals, mostly equines but they had many llamas, ducks, chickens and goats. The club had volunteers, many evacuees, that were helping feed horses and going into the evacuation areas to rescue horses. They weren’t the only group that was doing this but they put forth a huge effort to help the animals in the forest. It was great to hear amidst some of the more somber news we often received in the EOC.


Dani at Lauries.  I gave her a good grooming and did some
groundwork in the arena when I visited
Anyhow, we loaded Dani up in the trailer. I did ground work first. Tried to get her on once. She stepped on and then immediately off. I worked her really hard and then tried again. After a couple more tries I had GG’s hubby close the door and then we were set to get on the road. I was happy the experience was only 15 minutes. We still need more training but I didn’t feel it was the time and place for that.

When we got to Lauries GG’s hubby suggested that we have Dani reload once and unload again. That was a bad idea. In the new location Dani was very distracted and I didn’t have much space to get her working. There was a tree and cinder blocks by a water run off that prevented me from being aggressive enough for fear of her taking a wrong step (I should have just said, nah)…therefore Dani didn’t want to get back on trailer. My energy was wearing, I was hungry and dehydrated. I needed to stop at a positive note with a small win for myself. Laurie gave me a few suggestions and then I quit at Dani leaning into the trailer calmly. Darn, I should have just left well enough alone. I need to do more trailer training, especially backing out slowly but with access to GG’s trailer I can work on that and I may even look at buying my own sooner (aka finance it) after my helpless feeling during this fire.

Rio

Dani went into the field with Orchid and Rio, Ushi’s pretty horses. A couple squeals and then they were friends. I felt major relief wash over me as we drove away back to KCRC. That was mixed with the determination to get going with my work as I watched the smoke cloud grow bigger; it was headed to Falcon like a run away train.

Since Dani’s been at Lauries I only got to see her on Sunday. I’ve been working really long days, to 9 or 10 most nights. It’s been fast paced but we’ve all tried to keep up and support the first responders. This week on June 20th, I had K go get Dani and work with her on loading. She had just recently come back from the training academy and was starting her own horse training business. I was happy to pay her and between the busy work in the EOC we got a contract filled out and signed. It was confirmed that Dani was back home at 10:30am!! I’d gone out early this morning to get her stall ready with fresh water and hay. I can’t wait to see her!!!
Orchid
Things are winding down at the EOC and we are beginning to get into the recovery process.  I have my regular job to catch up on and then we have tons of paperwork and After Action conferences to conduct and reports to write.  In total the fire burned 14,280 acres, destroyed 509 homes, 28 damaged, and killed 2 people.  It spread very fast that first day, I am relieved that there weren't more deaths though many animals did perish.  I'm so happy to be able to go to the barn and hug my horse.  Uschi's home is standing but I don't think the fire came very close, there may be a lot of burn around her.  At least she and her family are safe, and her home and memories in tact.  I thought last year we witnessed the most destructive fire in Colorado but this one has surpassed Waldo Canyon.  I would have never imagined....

Stay safe and make plans for your horses, include your neighbors and friends in your plans too!

4 comments:

Kalin said...

Sooo happy Dani is safe!!! So scary!

Braymere said...

I think you were smart to move her when you did. My heart goes out to all the horse owners who were forced to just turn their horses loose and pray they made it. Such a terrible situation...

Anonymous said...

As a horse owner who has had to evacuate from a fire I now ALWAYS evacuate before I am ordered out. Animals are always a gamble with how they will react. Evacuation for humans is understandable. Horses do not understand why you come at them suddenly full of nerves and try to shove them onto a trailer.

Lauren Bomar said...

I am so glad everything worked out well for you and Dani. I know that was a terrifying few weeks down south. Praying for all of the people down there constantly. 2 years in a row is no joke!