If fires were to hit the high country, the Summit County Animal Control and Shelter has an evacuation plan for area pets - although they want to first make sure individual owners do as well.
Owners should be prepared ahead of time, said shelter director Lesley Hall. This includes keeping an emergency bag by the door filled with food, medications, collars, leashes and anything else they might need to take care of their pet outside of the home. Also, owners should exchange contact information and keys with neighbors in case their pets are home alone if a fire strikes.
Livestock owners should check ahead of time to make sure all trucks and trailers are operational, and make sure they know how to load them, Hall said. They should also have a safe place to bring larger animals in case of emergency.
But, the shelter does have a plan in case animals are left behind in an evacuated area. Hall has organized a group of about 40 staff and volunteers, called the County Animal Response Team, who are split into five groups: one to take rescue requests from concerned owners; small and large animal evacuation teams; another to set up a temporary animal shelter if the Frisco building has to be evacuated; and a livestock sheltering team. Small animals will be brought to the Frisco shelter - owners can also bring their pets there, if it's still in use - and larger ones will go to the Summit County Fairgrounds below the dam in Silverthorne.
If there's an overwhelming amount of animals brought to the shelter, Hall said the team will work with neighboring counties to coordinate care.
Both animal control officers and volunteers will respond to calls to evacuate animals, Hall said. Volunteers go through training on evacuations and fire awareness, and have special identification in case they need to get through roadblocks - as long as it's still safe.
While 40 people may sound like a lot of help, it's not. Some may not be available to respond if a fire strikes, and, if it occurs in a large neighborhood, there will be a lot of pets to rescue. It's also important to note the team won't be able to break into people's houses, or necessarily rescue animals that weren't called into the hotline.
"The best thing is for people to have individual plans, and to have plans with their neighbors," Hall said.
> In case of a fire, the pet evacuation hotline is (970) 668-4143.
> To sign up to be an animal rescue volunteer, call Hall at (970) 668-3230.
> Hall urges people to sign up for Summit County Alert, which send out local emergency alerts and notifications. To sign up, go to www.scalert.org