As flames lick the corners of fences and backyards are engulfed in heat, people panic to the noise of frantic footsteps from spooked horses as they load up their cars with valuable possessions and, of course, pets.
The Fourmile Canyon Fire destroyed 6,181 acres in the foothills of Boulder, according to the Incident Information System. Nestled in those acres are the ashes of 169 structures, mostly homes, where people once lived with their horses and loyal companions.
As many as 3,000 people were evacuated, according to the Boulder Office of Emergency Management, leaving displaced people trying to find a place to house themselves and their pets.
Many in the Boulder community have reached out to help care for people and pets displaced by the fire.
Kim Sporrer, the communications director of the Humane Society of Boulder Valley, said that, as of Friday, they were providing shelter for 50 displaced animals.
“They haven’t needed any kind of medical treatment [from] smoke inhalation kind of problems, but they’re scared,” Sporrer said. “Some of them may have never ever been in a cage before; they don’t know what’s going on.”
She said that while cats fare worse than dogs, a lot of the guardians have taken the time to come to the shelter to check up on their pets.
The Humane Society said they received a lot of donations from the community that they are in turn giving back to anyone who is in need of pet supplies because of the fire.
“We want to make sure to ease some of the stress that they have by helping them take care of their pets,” she said. “Food, blankets, leashes, beds, whatever people have donated to us, we are giving back to those who need it.”
Dogs and cats aren’t the only animals that have suffered from anxieties because of the evacuation.
Many horse owners were forced to evacuate their homes, leaving them with the option of bringing their horses to a nearby barn, such as the Green Tree Equestrian Facility or to the evacuation center at the Boulder County Fairgrounds.
Randy Eubanks, the owner of Green Tree, said that it’s about being prepared for whatever might happen.
“I think it’s just not knowing what the weather’s going to do [but] what animals might do,” Eubanks said. “You just got to be on the ball, and whatever brings it up, whatever comes up, whatever happens.”
The fire did not reach Green Tree. Had the fire approached that area, Eubanks said, there’s a number of nearby ranches and people with trailers that were available to evacuate the horses within an hour.
Three horses were brought into Green Tree because of the fire. These were not unfamiliar faces, Eubanks said, as the owners were scheduled to bring their horses back to the barn in October after keeping them in the mountains over the summer, so they were easy to accommodate.
“Of course the County Fairgrounds were good folks to send horses over to them there,” Eubanks said.
In cases of quickly traveling destruction, such as the Fourmile Fire, there is often not enough time to load a spooked horse into a trailer to bring to a safe haven.
“People will just open gates and let their horses go, or firefighters will open the fence and let them run,” Joe Lafollette, the manager for Parks and Open Space of Boulder County, said. “Sometimes that’s all you can do.”
He said that only three horses were found running around and impounded at the Boulder County Fairgrounds, the evacuation center for livestock and large animals during this fire.
In total, there were 53 horses, one goat and 10 chickens that were found or brought to the fairgrounds for shelter, he said.
The fairgrounds have served as an evacuation center before, which made the process easier he said.
“We want it to be a nice, smooth, easy process when they get here and not chaotic,” Lafollette said.
People bringing their animals to the fairgrounds are checked in and given an identification card upon arrival. It is then determined whether the horse must be stalled or may be grouped with other horses, Lafollette said.
Lafollette said a vet was made available to make sure there were no new injuries from the fire, but most owners already have their own vet who comes to take a look at the horses.
No one is allowed to check out without verification to protect against theft, he said.
“It’s a really disgusting thing, but people will come and steal horses,” Lafollette said. “We’re on a lockdown. No one can leave with their animals at all. If you’re pulling a horse trailer, you will get stopped, and you will get inspected.”
When arriving home, Lafollette said he encourages horse owners to take the time to inspect the fence line to make sure everything is sound before turning the horses loose.
In times of crisis, a community of animal lovers has reached out to provide an influx of supplies to support the well-being of everything from horses and cats to their caretakers.
“I think it’s just a lot of good-hearted people that live in this county,” Eubanks said. “They’ll jump in there in a heartbeat and help.”
Contact CU Independent Opinion Editor Sara Kassabian at Sara.firstname.lastname@example.org.