Preparing for pet safety in the event of a fire |

Preparing for pet safety in the event of a fire

Shauna Farnell

Fire safety for pets:

– In the event of a wildland fire when there is adequate time to evacuate, take pets with you or leave outside doors, windows and gates open for pets and livestock to escape.

– If pets are left alone in a building regularly, have some sort of note or sticker attached to a door or window with information on how many pets are inside and where they might be found.

– Keep pets current with vaccinations, medical records and I.D. tags.

– Have extra food, pet carriers and supplies available and ready.

– If there is not time to find a pet in the event of a fire, close doors to rooms and leave an outside-leading door open on the way out.

– If evacuating a building during a fire, do not return to it to find pets.

– Do not burn candles or flammable materials in areas where pets can knock them over.

SUMMIT COUNTY – When firefighters arrived at a fire on Briar Rose Lane in Breckenridge a couple months ago, one of the casualties was a cat found in its usual hiding place under the stairs. Had rescuers known to look for it there, they might have saved it.

In the case of a house fire, dogs and cats don’t have the option of opening a window to escape or kicking down a door. With fire danger threatening all things this summer, pet owners should consider precautions for their pets in the event of a fire.

“Especially in Summit County, it seems like everyone’s got a dog or cat, and it’s pretty common for us to just know there is a pet at a unit,” said Lt. Mike Roll of Lake Dillon Fire Rescue. “A lot of people think of pets as part of the family, but if there’s a fire, they need to think about themselves.”

When pet owners find themselves in a situation where there is a fire in their house or building, there are a few things they can do to improve their pet’s chances of surviving the incident – one that doesn’t involve a rescue in which they endanger their own lives.

“If you’re caught in a structure fire, you usually have about three minutes to get out of there, and we mainly stress that people get out alive and not go back for their pets,” said Kim O’Brien, public information officer for the Red, White and Blue Fire Protection District. “The best thing is to know where your animal’s hiding places are. Animals usually have a flight or fright response to fires, and they’ll sometimes go to their hiding place. We’ve saved cats, rats, snakes, dogs … we’re usually able to save them if we know where they are once we’re in there.”

Rather than opening doors inside a house that’s burning, fire officials say it’s actually safer for the pet if people close doors to rooms while evacuating the burning building; but leave outdoor-leading doors open on the way out.

“We don’t recommend people leave any (inner) doors open,” Roll said. “It’s suggested they close doors so there’s some kind of block from the fire in another room. What we would like to have happen is have people close doors on the way out and have the pet in the room not on fire, and we can usually get to it in time.”

Animal shelters and some pet stores carry stickers reading, “In case of emergencies, save us, too.” The stickers can be placed on windows, informing fire fighters there are animals in the building. This is especially helpful should a fire break out in the homeowner’s absence.

“Animals involved in disasters is definitely a concern,” said Leslie Hall of Summit County Animal Control. “The reason you need to plan today is, you may not be home when disaster strikes.”

Shauna Farnell can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 236, or at

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