As I acclimate to eastern winters, the fires ravaging California’s canyon country put things in perspective. While my friends, family, and colleagues are all safe, the destruction is staggering and has left people, literally, running for their lives while scrambling to get horses and other animals to safety.
Having lived in Southern California for 26 years, I have experienced the increasing heat and drought. I have been told to prepare to evacuate while at home with a newborn. And I have rushed with neighbors to put out fires and seen homes destroyed. There is nothing more unsettling than the pervasive smell of smoke, and no more primal fear than that of a fire.
Fleeing the Thomas Fire
To put things into perspective for people here on the east coast, one of my dearest friends, Wendy Gerard, lives in Ventura in the Scenic Drive neighborhood, which was overrun by the Thomas Fire. Picture a Category 1 hurricane barreling down on your community. Now replace rain with fire. Wendy and her family fled, landing first at a shelter, then bouncing from friend’s house to friend’s house as they searched for temporary housing. Everyone is safe. Her house is still standing. They have insurance. But it could be months before she can return home. This is all that remains of her neighborhood.
Horses Killed and Displaced by Fast Moving Fires
Wendy is a brilliant attorney with a generous heart and passion for horses. Her own horse is safely stabled in Simi Valley. But Ventura and San Diego are horse country, and not everyone has been so lucky. Roughly 60 horses have perished in the Lilac and Creek Fires, trapped in stables that burned. Many more have been injured and displaced. But when fires strike, Californians pull together and put their lives on the line to help save our horses.
How You Can Help
The Humane Society of Ventura County is one of many organizations that is on the front line. It is working hard to care for more than 300 horses and other animals it has taken in since the fires began. More are coming in daily. I spoke with Wendy, and they do excellent work. I can’t be there to help Wendy. But I have made a donation on her behalf to help the HSVC with hay, cat chow, rabbit food, water troughs, fruit, snacks, and other items that they urgently need for their new boarders. If you want to help as well, they have set up an Amazon registry wishlist or you can make cash donations on HSVC’s website.
I am still a Californian at heart.