During his regular duties at the Oregon Department of Agriculture, Jonathan Sandau seldom has to chase a huge hog that’s escaped its pen.
Overseeing a dog giving birth or finding treatment for a goat with burn injuries also represent unconventional tasks for Sandau, who works as the special assistant to ODA’s director.
In the week after Oregon suffered record-breaking wildfires in early September, however, such experiences became commonplace for Sandau as he helped coordinate the rescue and care of livestock at the Oregon State Fairgrounds in Salem.
“We made sure nobody missed a meal, that they had clean water and clean bedding,” he said.
Sandau had planned for a regular workweek after Labor Day but got a call from friends who needed to move their cattle and horses after receiving evacuation orders.
Once those animals were moved, other people began calling on Sandau to help evacuate livestock with a borrowed truck and trailer.
Many of the animals were brought to the state fairgrounds, where Sandau began coordinating their feeding and maintenance schedules, as well as tracking to whom they belonged.
Sandau also ensured that volunteers complied with biosecurity measures such as separating livestock by species and keeping sickly animals in a quarantine area.
The goal was to allow landowners to focus on finding shelter for themselves and otherwise coping with the destruction wrought by the wildfires, he said.
“We were able to relieve that stress burden by providing care for their pets and livestock,” Sandau said. “We wanted to provide relief for families who in some cases lost literally everything.”
Volunteers mapped out the makeshift pens that were constructed after the wildfires broke out and animals began arriving at the facility, which ensured the owners could easily find their livestock.
Each pen was also outfitted with a clipboard to help monitor that the animals were regularly being provided food, water and fresh bedding.
Sandau and other volunteers also used the gates and other materials that are usually reserved for the Oregon State Fair to build corrals to more readily unload animals and steer them to available pens.
Companies such as Wilco and Coastal Farm & Ranch donated feed, animal care products and bedding, but private individuals also contributed hay and straw.
“The outpouring of support from the community was huge,” Sandau said, noting that members of FFA, 4-H and other groups were also instrumental.