Animal rescue organization volunteer hosting close to 70 animals while helping haul out others evacuated from the Keremeos Creek Wildfire

Helping evacuated animals

Casey Richardson

Volunteers with the Animal Lifeline Emergency Response Team Society (ALERT) have been busy helping pets and farm animals evacuate from the Keremeos Creek Wildfire after hundreds of homes were ordered out over the past week.

Riding 4 Life Equine is currently hosting 57 goats, seven horses, one mini horse, a donkey and a pig.

Owner Leann Manuel is working as a volunteer hauler with ALERT to help evacuate farm animals while looking after the other 30 horses in their care at the Feedway Stables.

“My husband and I decided it was really important to get the training with ALERT, become a member. So we could at minimum take care of our own horses if we have to evacuate. Fortunately, we don't have to take care of our own horses this time, they can stay put, but it means we're available to help others,” she said.

Multiple trips have been done to help move the farm animals, orchestrating trucks and trailers and a lot of volunteers.

“My perspective is an experienced horsewoman and volunteer is to kind of show up and assess the owner's stress level, get a quick look at the horses and try to figure out who might load really easily, who might need a lot more support help,” Manuel said, adding from there she will establish a game plan as to who goes in what trailer in what order and how.

“Keeping an eye on all the safety and the pinch points of different handlers and volunteers helping us. Trying to keep the horses calm. We don't want to contribute to a traumatic experience.”

Manuel said they work to create a calm space where it feels like they’ve got all day and “this is no big deal.”

Actual hauls and loading have equalled up to a couple of full days of work for her team.

“There's been just been quite a few trips and quite a few animals…. I need a nap. I hate to say it but I need a nap. It has been a privilege to do this work and support the community that I love,” she said with a hearty laugh.

"We are tenants that Feedway Stables and they are of course graciously hosting all of these animals."

Manuel said that Feedway Owner Johnny Aantjes told her to do whatever they had to in order to help provide space for animals in need.

Those facing evacuation orders and alerts continue to express gratitude for the help from volunteers.

“I've been impressed actually with people in stressful circumstances that I certainly don't envy and how gracious they are, how they let us come in without knowing us. They don't know us at all. We come in to handle their horses. We boss them around a little bit as to how to do it,” Manuel said.

“They are not only grateful but attentive and cooperative and collaborative. And yeah, it's been pretty amazing. I've been pretty impressed by people's resiliency when they're stressed.”

One of the biggest hauls to arrange were all the animals from GottaGoat Farm.

“I think the term ‘goat rodeo’ came up as a joke, but actually, it went pretty smoothly considering the number of animals and the stress of the situation again. Pretty darn smooth to have that many animals cooperate with your intentions, like please get in this small box, this claustrophobic box we need to go now,” Manuel said with a laugh.

Manuel said the evacuation also went smoothly thanks to quick thinking by volunteer haulers, swampers, and the farm owners.

“For folks who have animals and may find themselves in an evacuation alert or order, plan ahead, have a plan. Get educated. Have a plan. Because even if you need assistance, if you have a plan and connect with those sources of assistance, everything just goes much more calmly, smoothly.”

Currently ALERT is in need of donations to help look after all the evacuated animals.

“They are definitely taking donations that will contribute to fuel for haulers, feed for animals and any of the care they need.”

Anyone with concerns about their animals can call 250-809-7152 for assistance in making an evacuation plan.

To make a donation go to ALERT’s website here or e-transfer [email protected]

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