The destructive wildfires in Ridge and Manorville may be out, but the incident left lasting positive impressions on animal rescuers.
“It was very impressive that everybody worked together so well,” Suffolk County SPCA Chief Roy Gross said. According to Gross, the SPCA had their mobile animal hospital ready to house any pets of evacuated residents, but there were only two dogs and the Riverhead Senior Center was able to hold them.
The owners, who were staying there as well, were able to see their dogs while SPCA personnel and the Red Cross were on hand to assist. Gross stressed that the best thing to do is have an evacuation plan ready.
“Make plans now for any type of future evacuation, whether it be a relative or friend that’s located in the safe zone—outside this area,” he said. “You’re going to be a lot more comfortable there with your pet than you would be sleeping in a cot with your pet in a cage.”
Beverly Poppell, executive director for Pet Safe Coalition, echoed his sentiments. Pet Safe Coalition is an organization that focuses on emergency management and disaster mitigation for animals.
“This is the perfect opportunity to remind people about pet preparedness, because everybody thinks about hurricanes on Long Island and not too many people think about the fire situation,” she said.
Poppell said that the Pet Safe Coalition will train people in dealing with pet preparedness in early July, when the Nassau Office of Emergency Management will hold a two-day training session. The event, which is open to the public, will take place July 14-15 at Eisenhower Park.
House pets weren’t the only animals affected by the fire. Horse owners scrambled to find ways to move their animals somewhere safe. Gross said that since the SPCA is not equipped with trailers, they were not able to help, but that other horse owners and organizations were able to safely evacuate all of them.
“The entire horse community came together, and we’re so fortunate to have people that pulled together like that,” he said.
Gross also warned residents that the wildlife is still disoriented from the loss of their habitat. He expects this to go on for a while, until the animals get settled someplace else.
“They’re so disoriented obviously, that they could be darting out into the road at any time, so I’m just asking people in that area to use extra caution when driving. Wildlife may be running out in the road,” he said, adding that a deer had already been hit by a car.
On the whole, though, Gross maintained a positive view of the emergency response.
“It could’ve been a lot worse.”