Hundreds Helping to Save Horses in Southern California Fires

People from across the state are driving animals to safety

In any tragedy, there are also tales of hope … of people helping other people. Or, in the case of the fires spreading through Southern California, tales of people helping people and horses.

"We have been able to get 14 horses out," said Shannon Clark, co-owner of the equine apparel company Customize My Horse.

Clark drove to San Diego County from Hemet on Thursday afternoon to help get as many animals as she could out of harm’s way. She has helped in both Bonsall and Oceanside and is certainly not alone.

"There are easily 100 or more of us going back and forth," Clark told NBC 7 as she was driving to get her fourth evacuation group of the day. "It’s been fantastic, the outpouring of trucks and trailers going in, (people asking) 'Where do we go, who needs to be evacuated?'"

She has taken all of her evacuees to the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, which is not only taking in as many horses as possible but also taking care of them.

"Anyone evacuating, I highly recommend going that way," said Clark. "They have veterinarians there patrolling the grounds. It’s a safe evacuation center."

A horse owner herself, Clark has had to evacuate her own barn in Hemet before. She has seen what wildfires can do and the ones currently burning are, in her experience, something different.

"It’s more aggressive," said Clark. "It’s surreal. In this last round of evacuations, we could feel the heat coming over the hill and said we’ve gotta go."

Still, she says after gassing up and getting provisions she and the majority of the people who are helping will be out as long as there are animals in danger.

"Horse people are a community," said Clark. "Leaving one behind is like leaving a child behind … you just can’t do it. Even if it’s a horse running down the road you grab it. We’re going to keep going until everyone in the path at this time is helped as much as we’re able to help."

Part of the help is coming from social media. The Facebook page for Southern California Equine Emergency Evacuation is providing a central location for people who need help and those who can provide it. The administrators of the page have been able to get people together, keeping communication clear and up-to-date.

"It allows the networking to go so much smoother," said Clark. "We can get ahold of one another. People can say they’re (at a spot that needs assistance) and we can move on to the next people that need help."

Clark said the first responders she’s seen battling these fires are doing a fantastic job but still sees people who are hanging around just looking at the fires burn.

"If any other the general public is not going in to get animals, please let us through," said Clark. "If you see a truck and trailer coming through, we’re trying to save lives."

Late Thursday night Clark said she and several others were trying to get to the San Luis Rey Training Center in Bonsall. She had been told 400 horses there still needed to be taken to safety.

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