Fires: Some California Horses Able to Return Home, Others Now Evacuating

After living in evacuation centers for nearly three days, some of the horses displaced by the Marek fire in Los Angeles County were allowed to go home Tuesday night. The fire was 80% contained with 4,824 acres burned by 9:00 p.m. It should be fully contained Thursday, according to CalFire. However, the horses leaving the shelters at Hansen Dam, Pierce College, and Ventura County Fairgrounds only made room for more, with the Sesnon fire still burning. As of Tuesday night this fire was 20% contained, with 13,285 acres burned.

Michelle Roache, deputy director of the Los Angeles Animal Care and Control, heads the volunteers that make up the Equine Response Team (ERT). These groups coordinate with Incident Command to ensure as smooth an evacuation as possible given the unpredictable nature of fires. Owners in need of assistance can call the ERT call center at 526/940-6898 or their local fire or law enforcement departments.

"We have all the resources we need to handle the emergency," Roache said.

Roache noted that during every fire, some horse owners panic and turn their horses loose when they are unable to haul them out. She said animals are safest left in a paddock or arena with no grass, where there is little or no fuel to allow fire to reach them.

Roache also stressed the importance of coordinating evacuation efforts with other horse owners.

"There are only so many of us (on the ERT)," she said. The more owners take care of things on their own, the more time the ERT can devote to assisting owners who are in desperate need.

She also stressed the importance of planning well in advance. For more information see our Emergency Planning Workbook.

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Jennifer Walker

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