Horse Owners Evacuating Ahead of California Fires

Horse owners are trying to get themselves and their animals out of the way as two fires burn out of control in the Los Angeles area. The Marek fire in the San Fernando Valley had burned 4,726 acres by Monday afternoon, and the Sesnon Fire, located in the Porter Ranch area, had consumed 5,000. The many horses in the area are finding refuge at the Hansen Dam Equestrian Center, Pierce College (both of which are full to capacity), and Ventura County Fairgrounds.

"I think the County Animal Control has done a wonderful job," said Hansen Dam owner/operator Eddie Milligan. "They have a game plan and they stick to it. I've been here for 17 years and I've enjoyed watching them grow."

Animal Control officials meet with each new arrival to the evacuation centers to take down important information to track the animals. Owners who have been separated from their horses can call Animal Control to find out if their animals were rescued and where to find them.

"I just stay out of their way and let them do their job," said Eddie. "They're very organized."

Area fire officials recommend that anyone living or keeping horses in a fire-threatened area evacuate as soon as possible to make sure everyone is able to get out safely and clear the roads for the fire fighters to do their work. In order to facilitate finding animals during or after a disaster, owners should keep identification tags with their name and contact information on the animals' halters--even a piece of duct tape and a marker will do the trick.

Sandra Hayes, a Fire Information Officer for Cal Fire, recommends developing an evacuation plan with other horse owners in advance to speed evacuations. Evacuation groups should also coordinate with local law enforcement, animal control, and fire fighting personnel to ensure as smooth an operation as possible.

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Jennifer Walker

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