Last month the San Diego Safari Park hosted a Wildfire Preparedness Summit for zoos and aquariums from the western United States. The event provided a forum for large and small institutions that care for animals to learn, share and discuss how they should be prepared for wildfires.
During the seminar, a panel of emergency agencies fielded questions from the participants. Fire Chief Rick Vogt and Escondido Police Lt. Scott Walker were joined by representatives from San Diego City Police and Fire, CalFire, and CHP. One theme that emerged from the event is the power of collaboration between all agencies.
Chief Vogt described the meeting. “What it was, was risk management officials from large and small zoos and aquariums from as far away as Texas coming together, discussing wildfires.
The session included a presentation by CHP and CalFire on the challenges of evacuation and preparedness for it. It included a Q&A session.
Vogt talked with The Times-Advocate about how such an evacuation might impact Escondido. “What we know about the Safari park is that if there is a wildfire and Santa Ana condition and the need to evacuate people, they will likely go through Escondido. The main theme from this summit was the power of collaboration. That’s why it was so powerful to have these people together.”
Although the Safari Park is actually located within the City of San Diego, it is surrounded by CalFire’s jurisdiction on one side and bordered by Escondido on the other. “We will all be working together to ensure the safety and evacuation of visitors to the park,” Vogt noted.
“What I found fascinating was the level of preparation to preserve the animals. All the zoos have to protect against the effects of wildfires. The impact of which could be problematic unless you have backups to backups to backups. That’s a different level of thinking. If what needs to happen is the evacuation of large animals that is something they have to plan for.”
Does that mean that in the event of a big wildfire we could see lions and tigers and bears, oh my!—coming through Escondido? “We didn’t get into that. Whether its shelter in place or some other option. For some animals that’s not an option.”
Escondido’s place in the ranks would be to offer assistance, says Vogt. “Our big concern is how can we help. That’s why it was great to be a part of this. To talk about what needs there will be. How we can help and integrate with the other response agencies so ensure that visitors to the park are protected.”