When wildfires in New Mexico threaten horses, cattle, and other large animals, the fire plans each county has in place direct them to do one thing: call the New Mexico Livestock Board. As the state’s oldest law enforcement agency, its mission is to protect the integrity of New Mexico's livestock industry by helping to keep animals free from disease and safe from theft and other threats, including fire.
Before the Livestock Board gets the call that a fire is headed toward livestock, its staff have already begun asking several questions in preparation: “Where are animals located within possible burn areas? Where would the fire have to go to force an evacuation? If the animals need to be evacuated, what’s the best route? And what pickups and trailers will we use to evacuate them? And where to?”
The Livestock Board stays prepared thanks to lots of planning, performing drill exercises, and having the right equipment – and, of course, having a statewide network of qualified officers who are well connected within their communities. The agency deploys its mobile command posts, complete with high-speed communications equipment. Livestock Board staff carry mobile panels that can quickly and easily be fitted together to form a corral. And having three veterinarians on staff makes for quick and appropriate treatment of animals suffering from smoke inhalation and other problems that arise when wildfires burn.
But the Livestock Board isn’t alone when horses, cattle, and other large animals need to relocated away from fire. Some counties are lucky to have active horse groups that can help move horses from affected areas by offering the use of their horse trailers and time. Several ranchers will often step up to offer the use of their pastures and corrals, even feed and water, to fellow ranchers whose livestock are in harm’s way. The relationships that Livestock Board staff build with local livestock owners are crucial when wildfires threaten.
The Livestock Board also partners with the New Mexico National Guard when wildfires burn. Together, the agencies will conduct surveillance from the air to locate people and animals in harm’s way and plan for their evacuation. They also work together in the delivery of feed and water to livestock.
Given that the Livestock Board is a law-enforcement agency, its staff also assist in evacuating people from the wildfires path, as well as manning roadblocks to keep people from entering dangerous areas.
When all is said and done and the fire is finally put out, the Livestock Board and its partners make sure that any livestock that had to be evacuated are claimed by their owners. Everyone’s goal, at that point, is to return the animals to the corrals and pastures that they’re used to, just as swiftly and as safely as they were evacuated from them in the first place.