Fire Images and Equine Emergency Response

Welcome friends, scientists & first responders,
This page is inspired by Nathan Slovis, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM (Internal Medicine), Certified Hyperbaric Technologist (CHT).  He is the Equine Emergency Response Director and Director of McGee Center at Hagyard Equine Medical Institute in Lexington, Kentucky.


Dr. Slovis was the feature speaker at the Northwest Equine Practitioners Assoc. (NEPA) Annual Client Education Seminar, January 18, 2012 in Wilsonville Oregon.  The topic he passionately shared was “Equine Emergencies – When to Call the Veterinarian.” When I saw the topic I thought, “I know when to call the Vet”.

Infrared image of small fire, showing smoke temp of 458 degr F.

What Dr. Slovis presented, however, was a moving and powerful presentation about Equine Emergency Response. What to do when faced with crisis – horse trailer accidents, horses with a leg through a bridge, horses sunk wither deep in mud, horses in a barn fire.

He teaches rescue personnel around the country how to handle large animal rescue.  The lecture was amazing.  In a fire, the personnel smell like smoke – horses won’t like this.  He also suggests that emergency vehicles come with no sirens or lights if there are animals on the scene.  What simple, thoughtful training!  We must remember the flight chemistry of the mammal brain – fight, flight or freeze – any or all of these will be at the scene of a crisis. “Don’t go in without a way out,” he stresses about overturned trailers.

When arriving at the scene to assist, ask “Who is the incident commander?” This is crucial, and we, as horse lovers, must never forget this.  There will be a chain of command, and we can only assist if we are calm, and collaborate with the incident leader.

Quiet, smoldering fire, time stamp 12:15:47

The images on this page are of a small brush fire I attended to help my friend.  I have always enjoyed dragging the hoses, lighting the brush pile, and tending it with my pitchfork and hose.  This time I happened to have my FLIR Infrared camera in the car, and decided to take some images because I was curious about the temps.  It didn’t make complete sense until 7 months later, after the lecture by Dr. Slovis, WHY I had taken these images.

Smoke temps 591 F and 411 F degr. Time stamp 12:15:32

After his presentation that evening, I told him I had taken these images, and the amazing data contained in them shows the temperature of the smoke is between 400 F and 600 F degrees.  This is the SMOKE!  Several feet above the FIRE!  The smoldering pile, with no flames to be seen is over 1382 F degrees.  I’ll let the images speak for themselves.


The amazing thing about these 3 images to me, is that with the digital photo above, our eyes can see how quiet and cool this particular fire is.  To only look at the infrared images, we would imagine that the blue & purple parts of these images are flames.  They are not!  Our eyes have no idea how hot that smoke is.  No wonder after a day of tending fire, that I have the redness of a sunburn on my face.   Fire is radiation in its most organic form.

Temps of smoke 311F, 316F & 473F closer to fire. Hot spots in pile are 1316F and 1112F degrees. Time stamp 12:15:59


This next image shows temps in five places in and around this fire.  These 3 images were taken within 27 seconds of each other.  The two infrared images were taken 15 seconds before, and 12 seconds after the digital photo above. There is NO FLAME present.  In this image the 2 spots farthest from the fire are 311 F and 316 F degrees.  Closer to the fire on the left is 473 F.  The hot spots in the smoldering pile are 1316 F and 1112 F degrees.  When I look again at the photo, I am amazed.

More tips to consider when assisting any horse in an emergency:
  • Their senses are strong!  Think of the following:
  • Vision – remember their blind spots directly in front and to their rear
  • Hearing – don’t yell, and remind others of this also
  • Touch – no need to pat the horse. Stroke softly, rub at the withers with assurance and kindness
  • Smell – use essential oils around their nose, or rub Vics Vaporub around their nose.  This will help mask the smell of fire and smoke, which is completely alarming to the animal’s physiology (nature intended this, by the way)
  • Simple supplies to keep in your car – lead rope, halter, scissors, knife
  • Acquire a section of old firehose from your local station that has failed regular testing. Have the local saddle shop or boot repair shop sew 2 foot loops on the ends of a 15-20 foot length of hose
  • These old firehoses make excellent straps to assist the horse
  • A forward assist means placing the strap over the withers, bring strap down both sides of the horse, and forward between front legs.  This is a safer pull position.  Do not pull on legs.  The loops on the ends can then be used for slowly moving the animal
  • A backward assist means placing the strap over the middle of the back, bring strap down both sides of the horse, and pass back between hind legs.  Again – do not pull on legs
  • Don’t drag by the tail – the tail can be pulled off by a quad or 10 strong men.  One person can pull to help a horse, not 10!
  • Legs have minimal protection.  Wrap legs with shirts, bandages, towels, shipping boots.

Thank you again to Dr. Nathan Slovis, for the above tips.  These were notes taken at that presentation.

Click on the link to read an article by Dr. Slovis on Technical Equine Rescue on The website.  For more info on Dr. Slovis coming to teach your local emergency response crews contact him at Hagyard Equine Medical Institute