Southern California Wildfire Displaces Hundreds of Horses

Hundreds of horses were evacuated ahead of wildfires that spread though San Diego County, California, this week.

The San Diego County Emergency Update website indicates that, beginning May 13, wildfires burned more than 800 acres in Bernardo, California. Kenny Baker, equine manager of the Del Mar Fairgrounds, said evacuated horses began arriving at the fairgrounds on May 13 as a result of ranch, farm, and other community evacuations that took place ahead of the fire.

“We started taking in horses on Tuesday and at our highest, we had 700 horses (at the Fairgrounds),” he said.

Baker said about 300 horses left the facility on May 15 (when the evacuation order was lifted) while another 400 are expected to remain at the fairgrounds until the fire is well-contained and area weather conditions improve.

“We'll have horses here until everybody is safe,” Baker said; he expects that all the evacuated horses will leave the facility by the weekend.

While firefights continue to battle the blaze, horse owners are reminded to be ready for emergency situations in California and elsewhere, Baker said.

Horse owners in wildfire-prone regions are advised to pack trailers in advance with necessary equipment (including halters, lead lines, and feed) and to position trailers so they can be deployed quickly and easily. Additionally, horses should be trained to load easily before evacuation becomes necessary.

Owners should consistently monitor the wildfire's progress and location in order to determine if and when they should execute an evacuation plan. Further, owners should also have a planned evacuation route and arrange in advance a specific destination capable of accommodating them and their horses.

Finally, horse owners residing in wildfire-prone areas can establish defensible spaces to help protect their animals and their properties. Defensible spaces are 100-foot perimeters that surround bans, paddocks, homes, and other structures to discourage fire from advancing through the property. These spaces are devoid of overgrown brush, flammable chemicals, or trees that could fuel cinders emanating from wildfires. Livestock left on the property should be placed within this defensible space.

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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