Crows Nest fire crisis: an eyewitness account

20140120_120002More than 50 animals and 30 staff had to be evacuated from the North Shore Veterinary Hospital in Crows Nest, Sydney.

Mid-morning on January 20, a blaze broke out on the upper level of the three storey premises leading to significant damage. Despite concerted staff efforts to extinguish the fire, the intense heat and smoke was too much, and it was soon made obvious that a full scale evacuation was necessary. Fortunately all patients and staff were efficiently evacuated within six minutes – the time taken for emergency crews to arrive – and were able to establish a makeshift hospital outside the building.

Fire crews managed to control the fire, which originated in a store room. All animals (including dogs, cats, rabbits, ferrets, guinea pigs, lizards and turtles) were safely contained. Luckily only two dogs had to be recovered from anaesthesia and extubated on the footpath, including one dog in the final stages of a hip surgery.

Specialist surgeon John Culvenor was the last to evacuate along with his nurse Amy Mosley as they completed the hip procedure on a small terrier. Many staff members were affected with smoke inhalation with several requiring hospitalisation and, weeks later, ongoing treatment. All animals were rehoused into three neighbouring satellite practices where they were held until the hospital became semi-functional the next day.

We didn’t realise the extent of the fire until access was allowed several hours later. The smoke damage extended through most of the third floor which encompasses the boarding facility, exotics ward, dental suite, CT machine, board room, kitchen, staff amenities and office suites. The hospital was shut down for most of the next day. Its after-hours and critical care service was run from Cremorne Veterinary Hospital that evening.

Fortunately, on the day of the fire, mild weather was at least comforting for evacuated animals. We were also fortunate that there were not more critical cases, such as ventilated patients or more prolonged surgeries taking place. The timing of the fire was also fortuitous in that a near full complement of staff was in attendance and patient numbers had not yet peaked for the day. Continue reading Crows Nest fire crisis: an eyewitness account

Lort Smith plans bushfire triage workshop

A bushfire victim.Fire-related injuries in veterinary practice are generally an uncommon occurrence – with the significant exception of vulnerable animals during bushfire season.

Bushfires are becoming an increasing threat to vulnerable communities across Australia, with veterinarians dealing with increasing challenges from the 2009 “Black Saturday” bushfires in Victoria to the current disasters in New South Wales.  A sound clinical approach in the triage, medical and surgical care of burns is crucial to avoid common complications, alleviate suffering and improve outcomes.

With bushfire season upon us, The Lort Smith Animal Hospital in Melbourne has decided to take a proactive stance towards bushfire preparedness. As the largest companion animal hospital in Australia, employing more than 30 vets and 50 nurses, The Lort will play a key role in any bushfire response and the clinical care of companion animals and wildlife, particularly in Victoria.

The hospital is developing its own Bushfire Response Plan, a 12-month project designed to establish a clear plan with regards to what role the hospital would play, and how this plan would be implemented in the event of another large scale fire.

Of the phases that transpire in disaster management, our strengths are in medicine and surgery, hence our activities would largely play out in the ‘response’ phase. Additionally, being a community-focused not-for-profit organisation, we would aim to assist people-in-need with the care of their bushfire-affected companion animals, as well as injured strays and native animals.

With the support of the Australian Veterinary Association (Victorian Division), the National Australia Bank and Vet Education, the project will deliver training to Lort staff  and is extending an open invitation to vets and nurses across government, private and not-for-profit sectors to participate. Training starts with a webinar on 21 November 2013 entitled The Medical & Surgical Management of Burns in Companion Animals.

To register, visit this page.

Continue reading Lort Smith plans bushfire triage workshop

Wildlife caught in bushfires’ blast

The recent bushfires in the eastern states have caused extensive stock deaths and taken a toll on endangered species.

At the time of writing, the fires have burned more than 200,000ha of bush and agricultural land, devastating national parks and farms.

Stock losses are believed to be around 21,000 throughout NSW, Tasmania, Victoria and central Australia. Continue reading Wildlife caught in bushfires’ blast