Wildfire refugees evacuate horses to Camp Pendleton

24 Oct 2007 | Lance Cpl. Paul Torres

Wildfires have not only forced homeowners out of their homes but their horses as well.

Horse owners who live near Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton were able to find refuge for their animals at the Camp Pendleton Stepp Stables.

Evacuation for the horses started as early as yesterday and continued during the night.

“Every person we have on staff showed up to help,” said Debbie L. McCain, a stable secretary from Fallbrook, Calif.

The stables staff worked all night and went out to homes to pick up horses and bring them back, McCain said.

She said owners came from all over to evacuate their horses.

Approximately 210 horses are being kept at both the stables and the rodeo grounds, she added.

Marines came over from the Del Mar Beach to help erect makeshift pens inside the rodeo ring, said Don G. Nunamaker, Stables Manager, 56, from Chino, Calif.

A campground was also set behind the arena to accommodate the evacuees and their animals.

Everything is clean and stable and there is enough room and food for the horses, said Joleen R. Elston, an Equine Ambulatory Veterinarian, who evacuated from Fallbrook.

“Horses are so prone to fighting when they don’t have enough space,” Elston said.

Many of the horses were put into pens but some were tied to trailers or posts.

If horses get too excited or irritable they might pull back on their rope and cut themselves, Elston said.

Constant help from the volunteers and employees helped prevent these problems.

“I want to thank everybody for all the help they have given,” Elston said.

Everyone has been glad to have somewhere to go, Nunamaker said.

Some, like Nunamaker, were able to find a safe place to keep their animals.

Others were not able to bring all of their animals with them.

“I have about 27 horses on my ranch but I was only able to bring six along with me,” said a teary eyed Marty Westby, a retired ranch owner from Valley Center.

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