Our state is in a bushfire crisis. The worst in recorded history.

enter image description here Image courtesy of http://google.org/crisismap/australia

The problem with evacuating horses is there is literally not enough trucks and floats to transport all horses from threatened areas.

What should horse owners do if their property is threatened by bushfire and they are unable to evacuate their horses?

2 Answers 2


I'm not familiar with Australian vegetation and fire screening technology, but a relatively simple measure you can employ is creating a network of firebreaks around and in between your paddocks. This doesn't stop the panic and air pollution in case of a fire, but at least it might save the lives of your horses.

As long as it's hot and dry, vegetation growth is stopped or slowed down. This gives you the chance to create effective firebreaks that stay intact for a few months.

The easiest way to create your own firebreaks is to plough around the area your want to protect. The firebreak must be at least 1 meter wide in open grass land, wider in forested areas, and must be freed of any remaining flammable substances like roots, leaves or grass. It's best to plough very deep, really tear the ground up and turn the soil over to make sure any approaching fire can only reach mineral soil, but no flammable vegetation.

If you can move the paddock fences, I suggest moving them inwards on all sides, then ploughing the perimeter of your paddocks and in between each one (just in case, better safe than sorry).

If you cannot move the fences and the soil is packed and vegetation is thick, it might be better to plough the same firebreak twice to remove as much flammable material as possible. Keep some distance to any trees or bushes remaining there. Adding more firebreaks in increasing distances helps if embers are blown across one of them anyways.

If you happen to have paddocks next to eucalyptus woods, I would preemptively evacuate them.

  • People have been unable to evacuate in some cases. Sometimes the horses are evacuated to areas that then have been evacuated. This is a good answer and I agree with it. The problem is burning embers fly long distances and also cause more fires. We have had it raining ashes and burnt leaves from 12 km away. So there's only so much fire breaks can do. Grass fires are also a problem. It's not a simple solution.
    – user6796
    Dec 22, 2019 at 1:07

The best solution is always to evacuate against a catastrophic bushfire threat.

Caveat: In environment crises, it's not always possible to evacuate all animals.

A few steps that can be taken to optimise horse survival in cases of fire and being unable to evacuate.

  • Remove all rugs, halters, fly masks etc from the horses. Keep them naked so nothing can catch on fences or ignite or melt on the body.

  • Write your phone number on the horse's body.

  • Open all internal gates to paddocks, so the horses can run the entire property to position themselves away from the fire.

  • Do not open external gates. A traffic accident can be as perilous as a fire.

  • The horses must have a water source.

  • With the previous answer ensure to create firebreaks. There needs to be cleared spaces in paddocks. Leaving horses on a property without cleared space and dams is perilous.

  • If you're not evacuating your horses, stay with them. If you're so scared for your safety that you need to leave, then leaving animals imprisoned on the property is perilous. At least if you're there you have a chance of carting water and helping prevent injury or tending to any damage asap. Humans can wear a mask. The horses cannot. This last point is contentious. It's a matter of whether human life is considered more valuable than that of your pet. Take it with that philosophical viewpoint in mind. The decision to stay in such an emergency puts the human life at risk as well as the horses.

From the Daily Mail regarding the bushfires (21st Dec 2019).

John Glatz, the former Oakbank Racing Club chairman, is in an induced coma in an intensive care unit, ABC reported.

He is thought to have suffered burns to 60 per cent of his body as he stayed behind in a desperate attempt to save his horses and home.

It's hard to expect any species to face this and survive:

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