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Easy fire: Volunteers band together to rescue horses spooked by blaze

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Volunteers load a horse into a trailer as the Easy fire grows in Simi Valley on Wednesday.
(Leila Miller / Los Angeles Times)

As the fast-moving Easy fire tore through Simi Valley on Wednesday, dozens of neighbors helped evacuate panicked horses from ranches in Ventura County’s rural Santa Rosa Valley, often struggling to push or coax the animals into trailers.

A caravan of trailers driven by volunteers snaked its way through the valley’s dusty dirt roads, looking for horses that needed to be evacuated. The cars stopped on a narrow road where volunteers said several horses had been dropped off by a woman whose property was on fire. Over loud whinnies, the good Samaritans tried to coordinate where they should take the animals.

“Anyone have a tall trailer?” one woman shouted, while holding the reins of a horse. “I don’t know if this horse can fit in our trailer.”

Evacuating the animals is challenging, said Fia Perera, 48, who was figuring out whether she needed to move her two horses and her 900-pound pig, Tallulah.

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Many horse owners don’t have trailers and depend on volunteers when emergencies force them from their homes. Some animals also aren’t halter-trained, Perera said, making it difficult to move them.

“When they get agitated and excited, you have to be firm,” she said. “If you’re panicky, they pick up on your energy.”

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The Easy fire, which broke out shortly after 6 a.m. near Easy Street and Madera Road, has forced thousands of people from their homes as officials try to keep flames from overtaking neighborhoods.

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The equestrian community has consistently come together during fires. Volunteers often find people who need help through word-of-mouth or on social media, especially through a Facebook group called Southern California Equine Emergency Evacuation.

“People come from all over to help out,” Perera said.

Jacqui Masson, 55, drove to the Santa Rosa Valley to help friends evacuate their horses. The horsewoman tries to make herself as useful as possible during fires. She’ll help get horses into trailers or muck stalls at evacuation centers.

“Anytime there’s a fire, people are saying, ‘I’ve got four stalls here, 10 stalls there,’ ” she said.

Raizy Goffman, 79, who lives in Porter Ranch and manages horse shows in Los Angeles, was one of several who arrived with her trailer to help. She spent the morning reaching out to dozens of ranch owners and horse trainers in the area. She stopped at several ranches but left when she saw they already had enough assistance.

“Everything is difficult,” she said of the situation, before jumping in the car to see whether she could help a few yards down the road, where volunteers were trying to get a halter on a horse that hadn’t been broken in.


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