Wild Fire Evacuations, No Pet Left Behind

by Jean Silva

Hot weather, strong winds and drought conditions leave me looking for a plume of smoke on the horizon. After many fires and four evacuation notices between me and my friends I’ve learned a few lessons. Once you see the smoke, you may only have a short time before you must evacuate your home. A little pre-planning can avoid tragedy.

The Police and Sheriff will quickly block access to neighborhoods threatened by fire. If you are not at home, you may not be allowed to return home. If you are at home, once you leave, you will not be allowed to return until all danger has passed. 

Once a fire starts, electricity and phones may go down very quickly, limiting your ability to communicate. Even if phones are functioning, the number of people making calls may make it difficult to get a dial tone and place a call. A radio or tv may be your best source of information about fire location, road closures and shelters.

If you have children, pets or disabled family members who are regularly home alone, ask your neighbors to help if you are gone. Exchange phone numbers, share emergency plans, the location of pets and evacuation supplies. Do a family drill. Register your phones with the reverse 911 system to receive emergency notices. In an emergency you can follow County Fire on twitter @SBCFireInfo. At the bottom of this page are links to fire preparedness sites for the Santa Barbara County Fire Department and Red Cross.

If you evacuate, take your pets with you. Plan on keeping your pets at your side for at least three days. Before a fire pack a Bunny or Guinea Pig Go Kit. See the list in the side bar for the items you will need. Be sure your carrier is clearly labeled with your name, address, pet name, and emergency phone numbers. While not absolutely necessary, a folding exercise pen or small cage/large carrier make safe housing. If you have no other options your pet can live in a bathroom (close the toilet lid) or  shower stall. 

Micro chips are the most reliable way to recover a pet that has gone astray. Consider getting your pets chipped. If they are chipped, make sure your contact information is current.

In a large scale evacuation, emergency housing is at a premium. Check with friends in advance to see if they have room for your family and pets. Below is a web site showing pet friendly hotels. In past emergencies, some hotels have waived no pet policies, so go  ahead and ask. The Red Cross will set up emergency shelters. If an emergency shelter does not admit pets, ask the workers where the emergency pet shelter is located.

Once a fire has started, emergency personnel set up a unified command center. That command center will coordinate any animal rescue or sheltering with local Humane Societies, County Animal Services, and animal rescue groups. Within the first 24 hours contact information will be announced on radio and tv. Use that contact information to find out about emergency animal shelters.

If the County decides to offer emergency pet shelter, BUNS may be asked to take in rabbits and guinea pigs. So check with us to see if we are offering emergency shelter at BUNS: 805-683-0521 or our Facebook page.

Fire Preparedness Web Sites


Bunny/Guinea Pig Go Kit

  1. Carrier or Cardboard box with lid labeled with your name, pet name, address, emergency phone number, and vet's phone number
  2. Litter box
  3. Bag of hay
  4. Ziploc bag of pellets
  5. Food and water crocks
  6. Medications

Nice to Have

  1. Folding exercise pen or small cage
  2. Oil cloth or shower curtain liner to spread under exercise pen
  3. Whisk broom