Veterinarians help evacuate pets, livestock during record-setting wildfires in New Mexico

Veterinarians help evacuate pets, livestock during record-setting wildfires in New Mexico

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Jul 04, 2011
Los Alamos, N.M. – While residents returned home last month following a forced evacuation from wildfires, New Mexico's state veterinarian says the fires this season have necessitated the relocation of a hundreds of horses, livestock and pets.

The animal-health problems directly associated with this season's wildfires have been negligible, sources say, but there has been tremendous activity in keeping animals out of harm's way, explains Dr. David Fly, New Mexico state veterinarian.

The Las Conchas wildfires turned away from Los Alamos claimed more than 123,000 acres. The wildfire ranked as the state’s largest in a season that has thousands of firefighters, rescue personnel and even the National Guard working to douse flames spanning from Texas to Arizona. In Texas alone, 1,500 wildfires this year have claimed 3.3 million acres – another state record.

The New Mexico evacuations impacted some 100,000 residents, plus veterinarians and personnel from at least four veterinary practices. The New Mexico Veterinary Medical Association (NMVMA) helped coordinate an evacuation of 250 shelter pets from Los Alamos during the forced evacuation.

Dr. Murt Byrne, president of NMVMA and a veterinary practice owner in Santa Fe, tells DVM Newsmagazine that veterinarians and kennels stepped up to take in the animals displaced by wildfires. In fact, area veterinarians helped coordinate an effort to empty out a Santa Fe animal shelter by relocating those animals to nearby veterinary practices and kennels. The Los Alamos shelter animals were then moved to this facility to ride out the evacuation.

"In 2000, we went through this before," Byrne explains. "They evacuated Los Alamos. What we learned then, and what we learned following Katrina is that no one wants to leave with their pets in a time of a disaster."

Byrne says that he was impressed at how quickly residents from surrounding communities pitched in to help people and pets displaced by the fires.

"It worked out OK. It is never going to be easy, but I am very happy with how things came out. I think we are going to get through this," Byrne says.

But as the wildfires turned from Los Alamos, Fly reports it’s one piece of a story that his gripped New Mexico, Texas and Arizona during this season of drought. In fact state officials have had to contend with wildfires in the four quadrants of the state.

"There has been a lot of movement of livestock," Fly says. "Our agency has been busy trying to stay ahead of it."

In fact, veterinary officials have been assisting with the state's Incident Command, which is coordinating rescue efforts. "There is stuff moving everywhere," Fly adds.