CLOSE

Four active wildfires in southern California have caused people and pets alike to seek shelter.
USA TODAY

As officials relax evacuation orders prompted by California’s sprawling Lilac Fire, shelters and animal-rescue organizations are working to reunite people with pets lost in the chaos.

And workers say lessons learned in Vista, Bonsall and Oceanside — where the blaze destroyed more than 65 structures — could help others prevent similar scares.

While you can’t always avoid the devastation wrought by wildfires and other natural disasters, they say there are at least three steps pet owners can take to keep their furry companions out of harm’s way.

1. Keep them close

Kelli Schry, a spokeswoman for the San Diego Humane Society, recommended people keep pets with them when disasters approach.

“We always — when an emergency happens — tell people, ‘If you have to evacuate, take your pets with you,'” Schry said. “The best thing you can do is take your pets.”

More: Shelters swell with more than 1,000 animals displaced by wildfire

More: 12 gifts under $10 that are perfect for pet owners

Schry said she knows that strategy isn’t always possible. Many pet owners in Bonsall and Vista, for example, received evacuation orders while at work.

In those situations, the Humane Society uses a “humane law-enforcement team” that goes behind fire lines to retrieve any pets left at home.

Officers either bring pets directly to their owners or drop them off at the nearest shelter.

2. Keep ID information current

If a pet is separated from its owner, up-to-date identification tags and microchips make reunions easier and faster. 

If pets have no form of identification, “we have to rely on a description of the animal, and if someone doesn’t come forward or know to go to the Humane Society to look for their pet, then we…