The Johnson county emergency manager, the city of Smith police chief, and the state of chaos director of homeland security are working together to plan for evacuations of citizens and their pets and livestock during wildfires, which are prevalent in their region each summer. During the last round of fires this past summer, several critical issues surfaced.
• People were reluctant to leave pets and livestock behind, but it was critical that they evacuate quickly to save their own lives. Some people were caught sneaking back into the area to liberate their animals, and one woman was severely injured by returning to a closed area for a pet.
• People often attempted to defend their own properties from fire with water hoses, fire repellents, and with makeshift earthen berms. Trying to force them to leave their land led to several confrontations and even a few arrests for physical altercations. These encounters also consumed precious time and resources.
• Shelters that could be ready quickly had very limited space on short notice. More space could be arranged, but it often took 24 hours or longer to coordinate larger areas. None of the currently designated shelters permit pets.
• Residents of vulnerable areas complained that they had little advance warning of an approaching fire. They received no word when an “all clear” was called.
• Residents who were evacuated more than once are publicly demanding that local and state leadership take proactive preventative measures.
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