The Enumclaw Expo Center opened its livestock facilities Tuesday for large animal wildfire evacuees.
It's comforting to know, said Leann Krainick, the owner of an Enumclaw dairy farm. Her cows are far enough away from the Norse Peak Fire that it's unlikely they'll have to evacuate. However, it's a reality for many livestock owners closer to evacuation zones.
"If I had to evacuate and had nowhere to go, it would be extremely stressful. I have known farmers who have been in situations like that with drought or fire and can't evacuate. A lot of them end up committing suicide. There's a definite emotional attachment to your animals. For a lot of people, it's not just a financial investment; it's an emotional investment, too. A lot of these animals, believe it or not, are as important as your family," Krainick said.
They're family members that need a special kind of hotel. Luckily, one of those is regularly used for livestock shows in Enumclaw.
"We can put in llamas, cattle -- at times we've had all kinds of stuff in here. It just depends on the event and what's going on. For this purpose, it's whatever anybody's got," explained Expo Center Maintenance Manager Terry Clayton.
Anything but small animals like cats and dogs.
Farmers just need to bring food. The expo center will supply bedding and water.
Clayton hopes the need never comes, but says now is the time to prepare.
"You can't see the sun. The lights are coming on during the day. They've been flashing on and off all day depending on the level of smoke. It's raining ashes. That's not normal. It's a scene out of a bad movie," he said.
The danger is real, but Krainick says, so is the good will of neighbors. Several organizations have offered animal transport.
"There's plenty of help out there, all you have to do is ask," Krainick said.