Evacuated Horses Escape Northern California Wildfires

More than 300 horses have been evacuated amid wildfires that have burned more than 100,000 acres in three Northern California counties.

Fed by gusty winds, fire began sweeping across Northern California on Oct. 8, according to CAL FIRE, an agency that monitors fire incidents statewide. By the following day, flames had devastated California's wine country and towns in Napa, Sonoma, and Mendocino counties. California Governor Jerry Brown declared states of emergency there and in Yuba, Butte, Lake, Nevada, and Orange counties. By Tuesday, 17 large wildfires had scorched more than 117,000 acres, destroyed an estimated 1,500 homes and commercial businesses, and claimed at least 17 lives, CAL FIRE said.

As flames advanced animal evacuation sites began to open in the affected counties. On Tuesday, horses were still arriving at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds, said publicist Leasha LaBruzzi.

“We started receiving large animals early on Monday, and they are still coming in today,” LaBruzzi said. “As of (Tuesday) afternoon we have 225 horses, nine Mini Horses, and one donkey. We have a total capacity of at least 800, possibly more, (but) with the fire still very active we cannot predict how many more we expect.”

Evacuated horses also began arriving at the Redwood Empire Fairgrounds in Ukiah, California, on Monday, said Jennifer Seward, fairgrounds chief executive officer. By Tuesday, 76 horses were residing at the site, 75 of which were in good condition.

“We got our first horse with wild fire-related burn injury today,” she said. “We're still accepting horses, but we don't know what condition they might be in.”

Just how long the horses might remain at their evacuation site also remains uncertain.

“We've had massive wildfires like this before, but this seems to be the largest in terms of evacuations,” Seward said.

Diminishing winds and cooler temperatures on Tuesday evening made it easier for fire crews to make progress against the blazes, but CAL FIRE isn’t sure when the fires might be contained. In the meantime, the agency urged Californians to remain vigilant.

“Historically, October is when California experiences its largest and most damaging wildfires,” the agency said in a written statement. “Residents are asked to remain prepared.”

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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