Be Firewise

Develop an Evacuation Plan for Your Horse Property

By Alayne Blickle


Photo credit Alayne Blickle

Wildfire can quickly become a threat to rural landowners. Since most horse owners live in the interface between urban and rural areas, action needs to be taken quickly to save the lives of your animals and reduce property damage. Being proactive is the safest and best plan.

Fires on horse properties can have different causes – barn fires, hazardous materials spills, lightning strikes, or wildfire spreading. All may require emergency evacuation. When living in a dry, flammable environment it is imperative that you are prepared to quickly move your horses to a safe area. Fire travels rapidly, especially when wind is involved.

If a wildfire breaks out in your area, decide quickly whether you need to leave. Late evacuation is a deadly option, risking loss of lives and property. If you are unprepared or wait until the last minute to evacuate, you could be told by emergency officials to leave your horses behind.

Once you leave your property, you have no way of knowing how long you will be kept out of the area. If left behind, your horses could be unattended for days without care, food, or water. If you decide to stay and actively defend your property from fire, be aware of the risks.

Everyone’s situation differs according to the size and nature of their horse enterprise. Therefore, every horse owner needs to develop an individual evacuation plan before hot weather and fire season arrive. Begin your planning with these tips:

1. Make sure in advance that your horses are trained for transport.
2. If you do not have enough trailer space for all of your horses, make arrangements ahead of time. Talk with a nearby horse friend who might be willing to pick up your extra horse(s) and transport them. Discuss which horse they would transport, where to take them, and how this process might work.
3. Remove all synthetics from your horses such as nylon halters, blankets, sheets, and fly masks. These materials are plastic and can melt when an ember hits them, causing serious burns. Instead, use cotton or leather leads and halters, avoiding metals and buckles.
4. Pre-determine where to take your horses should a fire arise. Possibilities include a friend’s horse property, stockyard or sales yard, fairgrounds, show grounds, racetrack, or a large park. Don’t assume any of these sites are an option; have a conversation beforehand with the appropriate personnel to inquire whether they would accept care of your horses during any emergency. Review what the expectations and requirements might be, and how you would compensate them.
5. When evacuation is impossible, place horses in a pre-identified firesafe area on your property. A firesafe area should be as large as possible, with non-flammable fencing (metal or wire) and non-flammable footing (sand, bare dirt, or gravel). Possible firesafe areas could be a sand arena with panel fencing, a large dry lot turnout with wire or field fencing or an overgrazed field with wire fencing. Leave water and feed in the center in non-flammable (metal) containers.
6. If you are leaving your horses in your firesafe area and time permits, remove halters (so the horse doesn’t get caught on anything) and ID your horse(s) by writing your cell phone number on a front hoof with a magic marker or on the hip with a grease marker (the kind used in cattle sales yards or endurance rides.) Do this only if time permits!

The Horses for Clean Water website has additional firewise information on reducing wildfire risk on your property or for evacuation planning with horses:

It’s easy to think wildfires only happen to other people, but this kind of thinking can lead to tragic consequences. Don’t wait until an evacuation to start planning. Act now to prepare a firewise plan for your horse property.

This June join Alayne Blickle to learn more about wildfire preparedness and other topics:

Online Class––June 4, 6 – 7 PM, (Pacific) Composting Horse Manure. Register at or [email protected]

Hobart, WA

Saturday, June 9 from 9 AM–12 PM

Workshop & Tour: Building a Riding Arena

Free! Register:, (425) 282-1949 or [email protected]

Cle Elum, WA

Saturday, June 9, 6:30 – 8:30 PM

CLASS: Firewise for Horse Owners, Registration or questions: [email protected]


Cle Elum, WA

Sunday, June 10, noon to 2 pm

Farm Tour: Horse Keeping Cle Elum Style! Registration or questions: [email protected]

Maple Valley, WA

Thursday, June 14, 6:30 – 8:30 pm. Farm Tour: Super Simple Horse Keeping

Free! Register:, (425) 282-1949 or [email protected]

Nampa, ID

Sweet Pepper Ranch, June 21 to 24, Sweet Pepper Ranch Cowgirl Retreat. Register at the Sweet Pepper Ranch website or email [email protected].


Published June 2018 Issue

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