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Heroic Team Saves Animals From CA Fire

by Sherry Morse and Patricia Collier

Volunteers with horse trailers have been busy helping evacuate horses from all over the fire ravaged Southern California regions.

In many cases, volunteers do not even know the people they are helping. Trainer Randy Cano said of the forty-five horses in his care, "We got them evacuated in about an hour's time. It was absolutely amazing how much help we had."

Department of Animal Regulation for Ventura County director Kathy Jenks and her staff, as well as hundreds of volunteers, have been working to rescue animals of all sizes since the fires broke out last week.

Jenks said so far, few injuries or deaths to livestock have been reported in the county.

Deborah Kember and her husband, Kent Sullivan, who own a local equine vet practice, have been treating six horses for burns to their legs, hindquarters, faces and bellies believed to be suffered from running through burning brush.

More than 2,000 horses in the county have been evacuated, along with pigs, sheep, llamas, goats, cattle and ostriches, as well as 410 dogs currently residing in Camarillo.

Between Saturday and Wednesday, Captain David Havard of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles and his unit of six vehicles and nine trained officers rescued 250 horses and between fifty and a hundred smaller animals, including dogs, cats and a potbellied pig in the San Diego area.

The animals were taken to the Lakeside Rodeo Grounds east of San Diego. Most of the animals at the Rodeo grounds were burned or otherwise injured.

Many horses have been evacuated multiple times. Some were sent to areas thought safe only to have to be evacuated again when the fire advanced.

In some cases, the horses were sent to areas that had already burned, then had to be moved when fires swept through the same area again.

At the Poway Valley Riders Association (PVRA), over 1,000 horses were brought in to escape the fires only to be re-evacuated when the PVRA was in danger of being burned.

The last load of horses left the grounds with the fire burning just across the street.

At the Del Mar Fairgrounds and Del Mar Horsepark, nearly all of the 1,100 horses cared for in the first few days of the fires were picked up by their owners by Tuesday evening.

But with new fires in the Palomar Mountain and Julian areas, officials said they expect more horses from North and East County to be brought into the shelters.

The fairground has many veterinarians on call if the animals need care. San Diego Animal Control and Mary's Tack and Feed are providing food and supplies for the animals, but owners who could were asked to bring feed for their animals to help supplies last longer.

The Miramar Marine Corps Air Station also announced it would open its stables to house up to seventy-five horses.

The Alta Loma Riding Club's Large Animal Emergency Response team has been working day and night to save horses from the Grand Prix and Old fires in conjunction with the Rancho Cucamonga Fire Dept.

Currently, 200-250 horses being kept at Ingall's Park in Norco owe their lives to the quick work of the Team.

The Emergency Response Team has spent every last penny they have on this rescue effort and are relying heavily on donations and volunteer efforts to enable them to keep up the same level of response while the fires continue to burn.

One of the fatalities in the San Diego fires was an Arabian breeder and trainer named Nancy Morphew in Valley Center. She was trying to save her horses when her truck got stuck in a ravine.

Neighbors and other family members saved all her horses, but didn't realize she was missing until her body was found.

Melissa Paul, Curator of the W. K. Kellogg Arabian Horse Library in Pomona, had to leave her horses behind as she escaped from the fire.

She said, "I thought I was going to die. Trailers were on the way when I had to leave because a wall of flame was on my east exit and another on my west. It was more horrible than I can describe. But the firestorm burned everything around the pipe horse corrals, total devastation. But it didn't get the horses."

One volunteer working at the Rodeo ground said, "There is almost nothing safe that hasn't burned already. The Polo Grounds are full. All the horses that were at the ranch, about 100 in total, got out safely.

"However, I was assisting in a evac in Crest a bit earlier, and I will never forget seeing my trainer and another friend running down the street with horses in hand, flames about 50 feet behind. We had to leave several horses behind. I'm assisting as best I can the vets and rescuers. We've had a couple euthanasias, and a lot of badly burned horses," he said.

Norco is the command center now for the evacuated horses and other animals rescued from all the fires. There are corrals, feed, water and even fly masks for the horses at Ingall's Park and Norco's Equestrian Center.

2003 Animal News Center, Inc.

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