California Wildfires Force Horse Evacuation

Six horses were evacuated Thursday (Oct. 26) to avoid the flames of a wildfire that engulfed thousands of acres in several Riverside County, Calif., communities. The evacuated horses were pleasure horses stabled on residential properties in the area, according to Peter Lent, emergency services supervisor for the Riverside County Office of Emergency Services.

"Fortunately, we only had a handful of horses to evacuate," Lent said. "No large ranches were involved in the fire."

The horses were transported out of the fire line by trailer and relocated to the Riverside County Fairgrounds. Riverside County Emergency Services and Department of Animal Services personnel jointly carried out the evacuation shortly after firefighters responded to the scene.

"We do drills to carry out operations such as this," Lent said. "Once fire occurs, we try to get in as quickly as possible.

"In the case of this fire, the horses were moved out of the area while the roads were still passable, and in time to avoid hindering the firefighting operations," he said. "To minimize trauma to the evacuated horses, we loaded trailers only to half capacity. For example, if we had a two-horse trailer, we only load one horse into it."

The evacuated horses will remain at fairgrounds facilities prepared by the Department of Animal Services until they can be released to their owners or removed for longer-term accommodations arranged by Animal Services coordinators at nearby stables and large ranches outside the fire-affected areas.

The wildfire began in Cabazon, Calif., on Thursday, when authorities say an arsonist set fire to a forested area in the San Jacinto Mountains. By Friday morning, the blaze--which was fueled by the Santa Ana winds--had engulfed more than 24,000 acres, or roughly 38 square miles. It had charred woodlands and driven residents from their homes in nearby mountain communities. More than 700 people were evacuated from the region, according to published reports.

Late Friday afternoon, a reported 1,100 firefighters continued to battle the blaze which claimed the lives of four U.S. Forest Service firefighters on Thursday while they tried to protect a home during the fire's early stages.

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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