Although the flames are far from extinguished, the Creek fire led to the temporary displacement of thousands of Los Angeles County residents at its outset; but it wasn’t just people who had to flee.
While smaller animals such as cats and dogs could easily stick by their owners as they sought refuge, larger ones, such as horses and llamas, had to be placed in shelters specific for them. One such shelter was the Los Angeles Equestrian Center in Burbank.
The center was one of several places in the county where owners could send their large animals to wait out the blaze.
George Chatigny, the center’s general manager, said the first call to take in animals was received around 5:30 a.m. Tuesday. The center was at capacity by Wednesday afternoon, with some 475 horses and a few goats, pigs and llamas.
By all accounts, taking in the animals went smoothly.
“We had a three-person team on the phones accepting calls and coordinating what stalls [animals] went into and people out in the back … accepting and meeting the horses,” he said.
More than two dozen animal trailers were parked in a lot near the stables where the animals were kept.
Many owners could do nothing more but sit, wait and look after their animals as the fire burned miles away.
The blaze began around 3:45 a.m. in the Angeles National Forest before rapidly spreading as a result of dry conditions and Santa Ana winds, according to fire authorities.
Jeff Katz got the call to evacuate at 4:30 a.m.
He is a trainer who owns a business that oversees 33 horses at Middle Ranch in Lakeview Terrace near where the fire had spread.
Fortunately for Katz, he said all of the horses made it out unscathed. He said he was grateful to be able to have a safe place for the animals in Burbank.
“All the horses got out … They’re safe, that’s the most important part,” he said.
The only damage caused by the fire was to some equipment and the business’s barn.
Before the Creek fire, the closest he had ever been to flames were in a fireplace, he said.
“It’s frightening,” he said. “You see the fire coming down the hills and it’s scary. It makes you realize how we have no real control over Mother Nature.”
Gianna Safizadeh, who owns a stable business at the Shadow Hills Equestrian Center, also shared that sentiment. She had been helping other people in the area evacuate their horses in the hours after the fire began when she turned her attention to her own.
The fire had spread to near her barn and several surrounding buildings were up in flames. Now, the blaze threatened 100 horses.
She said several other people were then called in to help transport the horses over a series of trips. In some instances, horses were walked down to safety.
“It was one of the most terrifying fires I have ever been in,” she said. “I have never seen so many structures and things catch on fire so quickly, and the wind was blowing so violently — the embers were just everywhere.”
Like Katz, Safizadeh said she was grateful to find refuge for her horses in Burbank as it was far away and relatively unaffected by the fire.
However, not everyone was so lucky.