KING COUNTY, Wash. — After last summer set records for an excessive heatwave, there are concerns about what this wildfire season holds.
King County firefighter Parker McKinnon said last summer was the unfortunate inspiration for a new nonprofit he launched with cofounder Alexis Robertson to help fill a gap in the state's wildfire response.
Yellow Dog Brand Livestock Evacuation specializes in getting livestock out of areas in danger due to wildfires.
McKinnon said the group is starting small but hopes to have a bigger impact as the weather gets warmer.
"They're animals, and their lives matter as well, but it's also someone's livelihood," McKinnon said.
The organization is named after McKinnon’s yellow lab and reflects his love and respect for animals.
“As a firefighter, we’re supposed to protect life and property and this is how we’re fulfilling our mission in just a little bit of a different way,” he said.
The YDB Livestock Evacuation will work with individuals and government agencies to transport livestock out of areas immediately threatened by wildfires. Off-duty firefighters and other trained volunteers make up the evacuation team that currently has three trucks and trailers ready to roll.
McKinnon says the organization is based out of Kittitas Washington and is strategically centrally located in the middle of the state.
“We are a resource for all of the Pacific Northwest so if there’s a need in Oregon we can go and if someone calls from Idaho we can serve them too,” he said.
The organization has a number anyone can text or call for 24-hour support. People can call (509)899-7635 for emergency evacuations for cows, horses, goats, pigs and more. McKinnon says 911 is still the number to call for an emergency but as the fire season approaches, he encourages anyone with animals and livestock to have a plan.
“On our website, we have preparedness info like our 2022 seasonal plan so we encourage people to read up and have our info ready just in case you need evacuation,” McKinnon said.
The Yellow Dog Brand Livestock Evacuation team is made up of regular and part-time volunteers who know livestock and wildfires. McKinnon says his vision is for the group to bridge the gap between firefighting efforts and evacuations. The organization is donation-based and is always looking for more volunteers and sponsors.