BOULDER, Colo. (KDVR) — One year after the Marshall Fire devastated parts of Boulder County, one lesson learned is about evacuating pets during a disaster.
“My heart still aches for the people who lost pets and lost their property too,” Leslie Irvine, a University of Colorado Boulder professor, said.
Three hundred and sixty-five days removed from the Marshall Fire means 365 days families have been without their pets. Irvine gathered some data about those pets lost in the fire.
“Because there was no pre-fire census of pets in the area we had no baseline to work from,” Irvine said.
You probably remember the harrowing body camera video of an officer trying to rescue pets as the fire was approaching. A recent CU Boulder study found that despite those efforts, 1,000 pets perished in the fire including dogs, cats, caged animals and fish.
Devasting data that Irvine hopes will drive pet parents to be better prepared for the next disaster. So, she advocates for everyone to include pets in their evacuation plan and add their documents, medications and food to their emergency go-bags.
“We have the problem with the cat hiding in the bed or the cat not wanting to come out, but it can go a long way to saving animals’ lives,” said Irvine.
She is working with a nonprofit, Animal Help Now, to design the “Pet Help and Rescue App” that is set to launch in January.
“If we bring in some technology we can connect a trusted network of friends and neighbors and put people together. I can just click and say, ‘please rescue my pets,’ then somebody who’s in my network clicks and says, ‘I got this’ then we can increase the likelihood of rescuing pets,” said Irvine.
Irvine knows it’s not foolproof, but she knows it will save the lives of not just pets but people too.
“Animal problems are people problems. So, if we have pets who are left behind, it’ll put people at risk because people will go back in and try to rescue their pets and then they’ll often need rescuing by first responders who really need to be doing other things. So, some people might think, oh it’s frivolous to worry about pets when human lives are at stake, but the lives are connected in so many ways,” Irvine said.