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On June 19, UC Davis Fire Department (UCDFD) responded to an automatic aid request for a car fire about 10 miles from campus. When they arrived, they found a rapidly evolving situation that extended well beyond what had been initially reported. The car fire had ignited a large area of vegetation and was being driven by high winds towards a ranch. UCDFD was assigned to protect saveable property, which they quickly realized included the lives of numerous animals (goats, chickens and a young calf) housed in a barn directly in fire’s path.
“The head of the fire was rapidly approaching the barn, and my assessment—with the resources immediately available—was that it could not be saved,” said UCDFD Acting Captain Ben Rizzo. “Instead of futily attempting to save the barn, my decision was to direct the crew to evacuate the animals as quickly as possible and protect the adjoining house.”
Rizzo and his crew were able to immediately draw on their recent animal handling and rescue training provided by the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine (SVM) and Department of Animal Science. Their hands-on experience allowed them to prioritize the animal life risk and understand what was needed to move them. The firefighters were able to get the animals from a place of immediate danger to a safe refuge. Swift actions and a good understanding of animal behavior and handling certainly saved numerous lives that evening.
This past fall, the SVM brought in Jim Green, director of the British Animal Rescue and Trauma Care Association, to spend a year at its Center for Equine Health expanding the continued efforts of emergency preparedness programs offered through SVM’s Veterinary Emergency Response Team and International Animal Welfare Training Institute. In conjunction with the UC Davis Horse Barn, Green has developed a risk-based approach to situations firefighters encounter where animals need to be rescued or safely moved from harm’s way. Working with UCDFD, Green (a captain with Hampshire Fire Rescue Service in the United Kingdom) has helped the campus firefighters to better develop approaches to incidents involving animals.
“Firefighters and other responders have to take very different actions in response to the presence of animals at any incident they attend compared to our typical calls for service,” said Green. “Risks range from a domestic pet protecting its environment at home, to defending its owner in a car crash, to a wildland fire where trapped and scared large animals require evacuation.”
“First responders need to be properly prepared in order to make the right decisions in often complex and rapidly changing situations,” said UCDFD Battalion Chief Nate Hartinger. “The UC Davis firefighters who responded to this incident are to be commended for their rapid evaluation of the situation and resolution of the animal issues, as well as protecting the threatened home. I firmly believe training developed and provided recently in preparing our team for campus emergencies involving animals contributed to the success of this situation.”
For more information about the recent training or the upcoming Incidents Involving Animals Conference hosted by UC Davis, please contact Green at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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