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Wildfire Preparedness tips for horse owners

If you live in an area prone to wildfires, planning ahead can go a long way in keeping both people and animals out of harm’s way. The following information is intended to guide you in your preparation.

Well in advance of wildfire season

  • Identify and reduce hazards of fire risk on your horse property. The same principals of defensible space and structure hardening used to prepare residences can be applied to any structure. For more information, visit or
  • Create 100 feet of defensible space around each structure by minimizing vegetation and combustibles by using the same principals used for homes.
  • Create hardened structures by using fire resistant building materials such as stucco, metal, tile, etc. Avoid using or replace any wood materials especially on the roof.
  • Install specialty ember resistant venting such as Brandguard Vents on structures.
  • Install sprinkler systems if feasible especially in hay storage areas.
  • Prior to wildfire season, inspect buildings and structures for potential flammables. Keep all roof surfaces and gutters free from debris at all times to prevent ember ignition. Remove hazardous vegetation along fences, buildings and walls by creating fuel breaks, which are gaps in dense vegetation to slow or stop wildfire progress.
  • Plant fire resistive landscaping near structures, avoiding ornate junipers/cypress or any highly flammable landscaping. Keep mature trees limbed up 6-10 feet from the ground and remove any fine fuels (grasses, etc.) underneath of them.
  • Replace wood bark or mulch with fire resistive materials (stone, gravel, hardscape) within 5-10 feet of any structure to prevent ember ignition.
  • Store flammable materials such as hay, shavings, firewood, lumber, flammable liquids for farm equipment at least 30 feet from barns and under a fire resistant tarp if necessary
  • Prepare and update an evacuation plan to get staff and horses out of harm’s way and to safety.

Horses boarded off your premises

For horses boarded off site at a professional facility, owners should consider asking barn managers the following:
  • How does the facility prepare for wildfires?
  • Does barn management have a wildfire evacuation plan and what is your role and responsibilities in the plan?
  • How is the property prepared and protected in the event of a wildfire forecast?
  • If horses are not evacuated, how are they kept safe and are they marked with identifiable information?


When a wildfire is approaching your area

  • Decide whether to evacuate or shelter animals in place. If evacuation is the best choice or mandatory, do so as soon as possible.
  • Evacuation plans should include routes/access to other horse facilities near and outside the area that can accommodate your horses.
  • Prepare emergency care kits for at home and away. Suggested items include spare halters, lead ropes, horse medications, food, first aid supplies and water.
  • Ready vehicles by hitching up trailers, parking them facing evacuation route, put emergency supplies/kits inside and keys in ignition. Check trailer tires every few months to avoid flat tires and have spare tires ready.
  • Put a sign up in a visible location preferably near the entrance of each building informing first responders how many and what type of animals are sheltering in place.
  • Gather basic documentation (pictures, Coggins, microchip ID, etc.) and place them in an accessible location. This will be helpful if you need to evacuate horses across state lines or identify your horse after an event.
  • Be sure to know when health certificates must be obtained from your vet before trailering your horses across certain state lines.
  • Evaluate your trailering capacity and plan, including number of horses, feed, hay, water and fuel, in case of evacuation.
  • Practice loading horses on trailers if they have not traveled recently.
  • Formalize shelter-in-place plans and stock up on adequate supplies.
  • Keep at least two copies of your natural disaster plan in an easily accessible location and share with key people.
  • Use social media to connect with equine evacuation and assistance groups. These are great ways to share best practices.
  • Contact and organize your local network/community when a catastrophe has been forecasted.

If safe to do so before evacuating:

  • To protect against ember ignition:
    • Close all structure openings such as doors, windows, loft openings.
    • Remove any flammable items such as patio furniture/padding, dog/animal bedding, fire wood, fiber based doormats, etc. at least 30 feet away from the structure or place inside of the structure.
  • Open gates connected to wood fences to prevent the fire from spreading if possible, especially if fence is attached or next to structure.
  • Make sure all gates are unlocked for easy access by firefighters and animal rescue. Open electrical gates in case of power failure.
  • Turn any exterior lights on so structures are visible to firefighters in smoke or darkness.
  • Connect garden hoses to outside water spigots for use by firefighters.
  • Move propane tanks or grills away from any structures.
  • Leave any metal ladders propped up against the structure for quick roof access.
  • Turn off any air-conditioned buildings and shut off gas at the meter if applicable; turn off pilot lights.

After a wildfire has passed

  1. When checking the property, be very careful of live electric wires caused by downed trees and power lines.
  2. Check barn and stalls for damage, flooding and debris.
  3. Walk pasture to check for debris and damage to fencing and make necessary repairs prior to turning horses out.
  4. Take photographs of all damages before making repairs.
  5. Call your independent insurance agent or broker to report any damage.

Last updated: Thursday, March 3rd, 2016

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