“If you have a 650-pound pig that doesn’t want to move, it’s a lot of negotiating,” said Carrie Shogan of Little Oink Bank Pig Sanctuary, which was evacuated last week.

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Fleeing a home due to a wildfire is hard enough. For Carrie Shogan, who had to evacuate 78 animals, it was an ordeal.

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Shogan, co-founder and owner of the Little Oink Bank Pig Sanctuary in Oliver, had to rush to evacuate her family as well as goats, sheep, chicken, ducks, jersey steers and 58 pigs last Monday after a new wildfire was sparked on a mountainside north of Osoyoos.

They managed to evacuate a third of the animals within a two-hour span before the evacuation alert for the Nk’Mip Creek wildfire, as it later became known, turned into an evacuation order. But they had to leave some animals behind — protected, she hoped, by gutter-mounted sprinklers that created a cool zone around their property.

“It was very stressful,” recalled Shogan. “Those were really frightening nights not knowing what we were going to come back to.”

The Little Oink Bank Pig Sanctuary.
The Little Oink Bank Pig Sanctuary. Photo by Little Oink Bank Pig Sanctuary /Facebook photo

Shogan had an evacuation policy in place, with trailers and volunteers ready to transport the animals. But reality was different from plans on paper, and with 78 animals with minds of their own, they ran out of time.

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They were able to come back and rescue the animals over the next two days, but it wasn’t easy.

“The thing about pigs is that they’re solid muscle, they’re faster and stronger than you can imagine, and they have their own opinions and ideas of what is going to happen,” said Shogan. “If you have a 650-pound pig that doesn’t want to move, it’s a lot of negotiating.”

One of the pigs at Little Oink Bank Pig Sanctuary.
One of the pigs at Little Oink Bank Pig Sanctuary. Photo by Little Oink Bank Pig Sanctuary /Facebook photo

Fortunately, the sanctuary’s three 650-pounders co-operated. It was the pot-bellied pigs, smart and more wild than domesticated, that didn’t want to budge. “As far as they were concerned, the fire wasn’t close enough that they saw the need to leave.”

At one point, while evacuating the remaining pigs, Shogan saw flames lick up to the tree line on their property. She called fire crews, who came and created a fire break.

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With the help of volunteers from non-profit group Animal Lifeline Emergency Response Team (ALERT), which responds to disasters involving domestic animals, the sanctuary’s animals are now safe at a temporary foster home in the region, far from wildfires.

The experience, however, has taken a toll on Little Oink Bank financially.

Founded in Langley in 2017, the sanctuary relocated to Oliver last July. Its focus is on mini-pigs, or pigs less than 300 pounds full-grown. Most were given up by their owners when they got too large. Up to 90 per cent of mini-pigs are re-homed within their first two years, she said.

The hurried evacuation was also a learning experience, said Shogan, who plans to tweak her plan to streamline the evacuation process to less than an hour in case of future wildfires.

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Her advice to other sanctuaries around the province, who may have to evacuate at a moment’s notice: Be prepared. “This is the new reality,” she said. “It’s happening and it’s not going to stop. Everywhere is a fire zone now.”

The out-of-control Nk’Mip Creek wildfire has grown to cover 68 square kilometres and has prompted a number of evacuation orders and alerts by the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen and the Osoyoos Indian Band.

On Saturday, with the fire encroaching east to the other side of the mountain, the neighbouring Regional District of Kootenay Boundary issued an evacuation order for about 50 people living in the Baldy Mountain ski resort and Conkle Lake Provincial Park areas. The order affects 126 homes, but officials estimate only 20 to 30 homes on Mt. Baldy are occupied year-round.

The Nk’Mip Creek wildfire is one of 257 wildfires currently burning across the province. As of Saturday, there are 57 evacuation orders in place, covering more than 4,900 properties. Another 16,458 properties are under evacuation alert.

Nearly 100 firefighters from Mexico arrived in Abbotsford Saturday to help fight the wildfires.

chchan@postmedia.com

twitter.com/cherylchan

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