Saddleridge fire: Large-animal evacuation centers set up to prevent horse deaths

Firefighters keep an eye on flames burning behind Olive View-UCLA Medical Center in Sylmar on Friday.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

It has long been a dilemma of many wildfires: Where to shelter large animals when the flames come roaring?

Last year offered the strange sight of llamas and horses being kept safe on the beaches of Malibu while the Woolsey fire raged in the hills beyond.

As the Saddleridge fire exploded Friday to 7,500 acres near Sylmar, more than 100,000 people were forced to evacuate, leaving residents in search of shelter not just for themselves, but for their animals too.


The fire ignited nearly two years after the 2017 Creek fire destroyed more than 15,000 acres east of Sylmar. Ponies and horses, including nearly 30 at one ranch, died while trying to escape the flames then — a fate officials are working to avoid now.

But already, footage showed that the horses at Saddletree Ranch Equestrian Center in Sylmar were freed last night, as the flames moved too quickly to allow for evacuation by trailer. Animal rights advocates encourage large-animal owners who can’t evacuate with their animals to free them from confinement, in the hopes that they will be able to escape on their own.

“Something we learned after the Creek fire was that we needed to help ensure that equestrian and large-animal fire evacuations were commenced early to help assure they were out of the way,” Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez said during a press conference Friday.

By late morning Friday, the Saddleridge fire in the San Fernando Valley had exploded to 4,700 acres and burned 25 homes.

Oct. 11, 2019

Evacuation centers

Officials announced that several places were available to assist with large-animal evacuations, including Pierce College Equestrian Center, which had taken in at least 80 horses Friday.

The Hansen Dam Horse Park was also accepting large-animal evacuees, as was the Pomona Fairplex. The Sylmar Recreation Center had been accepting evacuees with smaller pets and had reached capacity earlier in the day.

Hansen Dam Horse Park
11127 Orcas Ave.
Lake View Terrace, CA 91342

Pierce College
6201 Winnetka Ave.
Woodland Hills, CA 91367
(818) 710-3308

Pomona Fairplex
1101 W. McKinley Ave.
Pomona, CA 91768
Those in need of boarding their horses are instructed to call security at (909) 865-4600.

The Saddleridge fire ripped through the hills rimming the north edge of the San Fernando Valley, destroying 25 homes, closing freeways and forcing the evacuations of thousands.

Oct. 12, 2019

Residents were instructed to call the Los Angeles City East Valley Animal Center at (818) 756-9323 and the West Valley Animal Service at (888) 452-7381 for assistance.

For those evacuating pets, large and small, the American Red Cross recommends keeping current photos of you with your pet in the event the animal gets lost, and holding onto information about feeding schedules, medical conditions, behavior issues and the name and number of a veterinarian.