Emergency Animal Response –
2011 Wallow Fire
By Michelle Ryan
June 2011 brought the residents
of Northern Arizona a lot of Red Flag Days and Fire Danger. The
Flagstaff area was fortunate not be directly affected by the
fire conditions that year but that was not so for some of our
neighboring communities. The Wallow Fire in eastern Arizona blew
up swiftly to gigantic proportions. Thousands of people and
their animal friends had to evacuate quickly from several
The Coconino Humane Association
was activated by the Arizona Department of Emergency Management
(ADEM) and asked to respond to the need for animal sheltering
for the animal evacuees. This became the largest animal
evacuation in Arizona State history.
CHA was asked to help keep track
of and account for over 500 animals that had been evacuated from
homes, ranches, and communities to the Apache County
Fairgrounds. The animals that had been evacuated were a mixture
of beloved family pets like dogs, cats, rabbits and a bird,
working animals like horses, and a huge number of livestock.
Each species required its own special standard of care and
For security and the protection
of each person’s pets and livestock, each animal was marked with
special collars & tags whose numbers corresponded with kennel
card numbers and the master list of animal/owner information.
This was done to ensure that all animals were properly
identified, tracked, and returned to their proper owners.
animals were in amazingly great condition for the situation in
which they found themselves. For the first two days that we were
at the emergency shelter located at the Apache County
Fairgrounds we coordinated volunteer veterinarians to come in to
provide emergency medical care for the ill and injured. There
were animals with upper respiratory problems from the smoke.
There were animals with bruising, and lacerations. There was one
pregnant guinea pig that went into pre-term labor, most likely
due to stress. We transported one sweet dog to the alternate
evacuation point in Show Low to be kept under 24 hour
observation by the Arizona Humane Society veterinarian after it
was determined that she had ruptured her spleen in a fatality
rollover accident. She was picked up, after recovery, by the
We spent more than two full days
giving core vaccinations plus rabies shots to over 150 head of
horses, 60 dogs, and nearly 90 cats to help boost their immune
systems and to help prevent the spread of disease in our make
shift animal shelter.
The generosity of people was
amazing to see. Tons of dog and cat chow, truckloads of hay and
feed, and trailer loads of medications, cat litter, and pet
supplies were donated to the emergency shelter. People came from
all over Arizona and the surrounding states to volunteer their
time and experience. People opened their hearts and wallets and
gave thoughtfully and generously to the animals' care!
After seven days and the approval
for the residents of Springerville and Eager to return home ADEM
released us. We packed up our emergency response equipment, said
goodbye to the new friends we made and came home. It was a very
gratifying experience for our shelter to assist in the
coordination of the care and return home of the animals affected
by the Wallow Fire.