This post was written by Kerry Roussellot.

Today was not a test run for a fire disaster. Today it was real.

The fire was very close to our barn of 19 horses. We had plans in place, our barn had talked about disaster preparation, and we had CCCART (Contra Costa County Animal Response Team) put together a presentation on how to prepare for disasters. However, planning and preparation is good; proper execution is better.

One of our members who is very technology savvy put our barn on the WhatsApp (this will notify members across both android and i-phone platforms). We have 2 barn leads who were responsible for notifying our members thru this app. It was difficult to get to the barn due to the Alhambra Ave. fire; we all had to find different ways around. Smoke was heavy in the air when we arrived, and the wail of fire engines could still be heard.

Upon arrival, horse owners began to systematically to pull out the trailers, open the back doors, and load horses. There was tension, but there was no panic. This ultimately helped the horses stay calm. People hustled to the barn, got the trailers out and ready, loaded horses and stayed calm, helped other horses stay calm, and were ready for action. The WhatsApp worked. Our boarders worked. Our immediate evacuation plan was to head to the Martinez Arena for short term, until we could determine the extent of the fire, and decide where to go from there.

Several years ago, we made plans with another barn in Clayton to board our horses in the event of a disaster, and they were on standby in case we needed to come their way. We are grateful to everyone who responded.

Were there lessons to be learned? Of course! Were there things we could have done differently or better? Absolutely. But this exercise, this potential disaster, served as a teaching, training and execution exercise, and I am proud of our barn. I am even more grateful for the First Responder men and women of the fire departments and police departments who literally put their lives on the line every single day in order to keep the masses safe. They were prompt, they put the fire out, and they made it safe for us to remain.

Thank you… from the bottom of our hearts.