Photo courtesy of Jill Garnet. Jill Garnet readies her dog truck in preparation of evacuating her home and kennel in Kasilof, as the Funny River Horse Trail Fire draws near last week. Residents with livestock or lots of animals faced a particular challenge in getting ready to get out of the path of the fire.
By Joseph Robertia
It’s hard enough for people to prepare to evacuate their homes when a wildfire approaches, as has been the case for residents of Kasilof, Funny River and the Kenai Keys area along the Kenai River as the Funny River Fire has torched over 176,000 acres since starting near Mile 6 of Funny River Road on May 19.
It’s even harder when it’s not just things and able-bodied people to worry about, but helpless animals to corral, as is the case for livestock farmers or mushers with dozens of sled dogs in their care.
“Living just south of Johnson Lake in a heavily wooded area, we are trying to stay prepared during this fire. We have 13 sled dogs who live on a fenced 2 acres and are used to running free all day within the enclosure,” said Jill Garnet who, along with her partner, Sean Rice, saw the risk of fire overtaking their kennel after the blaze made a seven-mile run in two hours last week, reaching the shore of nearby Tustumena Lake.
“On Tuesday we spent 10 hours packing up our most vital gear, most of it related to running dogs — carts, sleds and whatnot. We packed up 10 days of dog food, water jugs and our doggie first-aid bag into our dog truck. We packed up some clothes and guns. Important documents like Social Security cards, birth certificates and vehicles titles made the list. We threw in a camp stove and a filled propane tank, too,” she said.
Garnet’s dogs are used to being transported, for training and racing, in a large, multicubbied box attached to the bed of her truck, so moving the dogs shouldn’t be a problem if the time comes.
“Our dog truck, which is big enough to transport our entire team, is now parked facing out, just outside our fence gate attached to our trailer, which is packed up,” she said.
The difficulty isn’t the moving, it’s the act of gathering up her dogs for the move — since all of the dogs are rescues with various social issues. Her dogs are kept with a free run in their enclosures, rather than tethered on chains as is the practice of many mushers. There also is the dilemma of where to take them and how to maintain them once evacuated.
“We aren’t trying to be reactionary or panic, but just smart. Evacuating 13 dogs isn’t something you are going to do just because. Our team is used to a free-run lifestyle, so taking them out of here and staking them on chains would prove extremely stressful for us and them,” she said.
“We have had many offers over these four days for places to go, but none are fenced. I looked into renting construction fencing, 6-by-12 panels out of Anchorage, but they are all rented out in this high season. So we are keeping our eyes open for fenced areas owned by people who may allow us to park inside temporarily as we camp out with the dogs,” she said.