August 2016 - Fast Start For Fire Season
Written by Cheryl Erpelding
Sunday, 31 July 2016 17:30
PDF Print E-mail

Donations of hay, feed and hauling come from generous businesses.

by Cheryl Erpelding

Although last winter’s El Niño helped with the drought, it also hurt by growing enough grass and brush to fuel several wild fires across the state earlier this summer, well before the traditional late-fall fire season.

Normally equestrians cruise through the summer with rare fire danger worries, but this year many had to jump into action to evacuate their horses from the fire zones just as summer started.


On June 22, one of the first fires hit Ventura County as the Sherpa Fire burned 8,000 acres and forced many to evacuate to the Earl Warren Show Grounds in Santa Barbara. Members of the Santa Barbara Equine Assistance & Evacuation Team (, 805 892-4484) were instrumental in moving many horses out of harm’s way. The hardest part about these emergencies is loading horses that haven’t been trailered in years. Having experts in horse loading and hauling is crucial in saving horses from fast moving wild fires.


The big hunter/jumper barn, Rainbow Canyon Ranch in Los Angeles County’s Azuza, had to move 60-plus horses to the Los Angeles Fairplex when two fires merged and evacuations were imminent. Barn manager Candise Pipkin said it took about an hour to evacuate the horses. When she learned that horses at the Encanto Equestrian Center in nearby Duarte were in immediate danger, she diverted the haulers to go there first.

KC Horse Transport and Bob Hubbard Transport jumped in to haul horses out of harm’s way with many horse owners hitching up their own trailers to help. Summer campers were sent to Azusa to be picked up by parents. Even the chickens were rounded up.

Candise said there must have been a hundred phone messages of people calling to offer their help as the two fires burned 4,500 acres above the 700 homes and horse ranches. Over 200 horses were evacuated from the San Gabriel Valley.

Horses from Encanto Equestrian Center and Bliss Canyon Thoroughbred Farms were also taken to either Santa Anita Park or the Fairplex. Donations of feed and bedding while the horses were stabled at the evacuation sites for a week came from Citrus Feed Comapny in La Verne and San Dimas Grain brought in shavings and helped haul horses. Several of the feed store employees helping out by preparing the stalls before the horses arrived. The evacuation went smoothly and Candise reported a loss of one hind shoe as the only casualty.

She said the support of the horse community was just amazing as everyone stepped up and made the weeklong evacuation a smooth one.

Also stepping up and aiding the horse community in Kern County were farmers and dairymen that donated and delivered for free 1000 bales of hay from Watts Hay Company in Bakersfield to the residents of Lake Isabella, where 285 homes were lost, two lives lost, and over 47,000 acres were burned making it the most destructive of what promises to be a long 2016 fire season.

Equine Insurance’s owner Donna Chopp advises fellow horse owners and equestrian facilities need to have a plan as we move into the traditional fire season. Being organized, having lead ropes for every horse with their names and owner’s info is number one. Keeping brush cleared, moving out when the authorities request it is important. Fire extinguishers in various locations through out the facility that are checked yearly are a must.

Evacuating horses is more time consuming and requires a good plan. Where to evacuate to, loading supplements and medicines, bringing water buckets should all be on the list. A yearly review of emergency plans is also a good idea for horse owners.

Social media is a great way to help organize evacuations and get support. Facebook has several brush party lines pages and groups like the Southern California Equine Emergency Evacuation group that shares updates, news and offers of help in getting horses out of danger.

For more tips on preparing for fires and other emergencies, see story.