How Vet Techs Can Help During Fire Season

Published on December 1, 2020 by arothstein

Service animal with a wildlife fire fighter.

Interested in lending a hand with animals during fire season? Anyone who loves animals can spend their days caring for them by earning a degree to work as a vet tech. You may pursue a career as a vet tech to help animals and educate pet owners on compassionate care for their pets. A time when pets are helpless and need assistance is during fire season.

What is Happening During Fire Season on the West Coast?

The most significant fires on record in California, Oregon, Washington State, and Colorado are causing evacuations of hundreds of thousands of people and lost animals who can’t escape the fires. The 2020 wildfire season has shattered previous records all over the West Coast.

More than four million acres of land in California have burned as of the end of summer, approximately 4 percent of the state’s landmass. Five of the six most massive fires in the state burned in 2020, according to the Washington Post. Oregon has experienced one of the most devastating wildfire seasons in the history of the state. The Pine Gulch fire in Colorado that started in June broke the previous record for wildfire size. The East Troublesome and Cameron Peak fires broke the Pine Gulch record in October.

One of the most devastating statistics of the wildfires has been the massive numbers of animals that are left behind or lost when homeowners flee their homes at a moment’s notice. Some rescue groups have mobilized in times of natural disasters to rescue pets and farm animals that are left behind. Non-profit organizations step in to save as many animals as they can. Rescue workers can provide pets with food, water, and medical attention. If an animal is too frightened, volunteers may leave food and water out so the animal will be found by the owners when they return.

Climate Change and Wildfires

According to Scientific American, climate change plays a significant role in the increase in wildfires in California, not poor management of the land, as some columnists have suggested. The number of windy, warm, dry days in the western states has increased drastically since the 1980s.

We must aggressively reduce greenhouse gases in the next few years to prevent disasters like the 2020 wildfire season from becoming an annual occurrence. Without a drastic reduction of greenhouse gases, a majority of the forests in Washington, Oregon, and Northern California could be destroyed by 2050, which would result in a massive loss of wildlife.

What Can a Vet Tech Do to Help Residents During a Fire?

Animals that confront wildfires become traumatized and need a lot of compassionate care from veterinarians and vet techs. Fortunately, non-profit organizations like the International Fund for Animal Welfare send teams out to areas where people and animals are suffering the effects of natural disasters. Since 2000, the IFAW has rescued more than 275,000 animals.

In some cases, teams of veterinarians and vet techs from universities travel to areas that are hardest hit by wildfires. Emergency veterinary teams set up operations and shelters for animals displaced by fires. The teams provide warm, safe shelter and care for sick or injured animals. Vet techs may assist by setting up triage, providing shelter for displaced animals and offering transportation.

Animal Triage

A triage for injured animals provides the same care as a hospital emergency room in a disaster. A vet tech must check the vital signs of each animal, including blood pressure, pulse, temperature, and respiratory rate. The vet tech must determine which animals must be treated first, depending on the degree of injury or trauma.

Emergency Shelters

Vet techs must be able to assist in setting up emergency shelters and holding areas for displaced animals. One way in which vet techs can help residents during a wildfire is to care for animals who are displaced with their owners in pet-friendly shelters. They may provide care for these pets in regular shelters or in temporary shelters set up for residents and pets during an emergency.

Transportation

Another way in which a vet tech can offer assistance for residents that are pet owners during a wildfire emergency is transporting pets to safety. When animals are in an area that’s been destroyed by fire, vet techs have the training to calm animals that are injured or stressed. Domestic pets and farm animals can be transported to safe areas and reclaimed by their owners.

Pet Owner Education in the Case of a Fire

Before a fire emergency occurs, everyone should have a plan for their family, including their pets. The first thing to remember is to not panic. Pets can sense stress in their owners. It’s essential to keep a pet calm. When a pet owner must evacuate, they should take the pets with them. Pets should not be left behind.

A pet owner should have leashes and crates in a place that’s easily accessible. Leash and harness larger dogs. Smaller dogs and cats should be safely secured in crates. The pet owner should make sure their pets are up to date on vaccines and are wearing collars and ID tags. Besides a cell phone number, it’s a good idea to have the number of a family member or close friend engraved on a pet’s ID tag in case they should be separated.

Have an Exit Plan

Everyone in the family should know where to exit and where to meet in the event of an emergency. If family members are responsible for getting pets out of the home, the pet owner should make sure they know exactly what to do before a fire breaks out. They should understand how to keep pets calm and get them safely crated or leashed and out of danger.

Family members should know the emergency plan, and everyone should take responsibility. It’s essential to move quickly when there’s a fire emergency. Decide who will be responsible for:

A Place to House Pets

Fire season isn’t the time to think about where to house pets during a wildfire. A pet owner can have a pre-arranged plan to house their pets with a friend or family member out of the area. If a wildfire is in the vicinity, a pet owner shouldn’t wait until the last minute. They should get their pets to a safe place and take shelter away from the area until it’s safe to return home.

Never assume that a shelter will take in a pet. Before an emergency happens, pet owners should check with local emergency management offices to find out which shelters are pet friendly. It’s also a good idea to check local hotels and motels. A lot of them accept pets. Find out about breed or size restrictions. Check local boarding kennels and veterinarian’s offices and keep a list of them near the phone.

A pet owner can make arrangements with a pet sitter or trusted friend to get a pet out of the house and meet at a specified location if away when an evacuation order is issued.

Safety Measures to Have in Place

It is important to have smoke detectors installed in the home and check them periodically to make sure they’re working correctly. When a pet owner is going to be away from their home for a few hours, they should make sure young pets are secure in a crate or use baby gates to keep them from any fire hazards. They should also keep pets secure in a room close to the entrance of the house. They should keep leashes and pet crates close by. If firefighters have to break into the home, they can rescue the pets more efficiently if they’re close to the front entrance.

A pet owner should purchase clear plastic, pet alert window clings to let rescue workers know how many pets are in the home. Pet alerts provide firefighters with information that’s critical to getting pets out of the home and to a safe location.

According to American Humane, more than 500,000 domestic pets are affected by fires each year. Even more wild animals suffer during fire season. Statistics indicate that many house fires are started by pets who are curious and want to investigate items that are within reach.

Pet owners can take precautions by covering stove knobs that may accidentally get turned on by a pet. Flameless candles can also be used rather than traditional candles, and loose wires that pets may chew on should be secured and out of their reach.

Final Thoughts

As a vet tech, you can help animals by educating pet parents on fire safety and learning critical care skills that help animals that are injured or displaced by wildfires. Help save the lives of animals as a vet tech during fire season.

Did learning about how vet techs help during fire season interest you? With an Associate Degree in Veterinary Technology, you’ll gain the knowledge, qualities and skills you need to start an entry-level career as a veterinary technician. Broadview University has been part of the community for more than 40 years, so we’ve developed connections that can help move your career forward. After completing our accredited degree program, you’ll be eligible to sit for the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE). Passing the VTNE allows you to become a Certified Veterinary Technician (CVT), a designation that will give you a competitive advantage when you enter the job market.

Contact us today to learn more about becoming a veterinary technician and working in veterinary technology.

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