Seven Tears Into the Sea
Phantom Stallion Series
Wednesday, August 22, 2012
Hundreds of Rescued Wild Horses Threatened by Ponderosa Fire
KTVU photo of Ponderosa fire
Two Northern California wild horse rescue organizations lay in the path of the 24,323 acre Ponderosa fire. For now, the mustangs are safe, but with the fire only 50% contained, experts worry about possible wind shifts, and most evacuation orders remain in effect.
Last Saturday, Palomino Armstrong, director of Chilly Pepper Miracle Mustang Rescue was in Dayton, Nevada with her husband Matt, preparing to educate visitors to the Wild Horse and Burro Expo in Reno, when they received a surprise call from their son Dalton.
A lightning strike had ignited a fire near their Manton, California home. The fire had spread to 100 acres. By the time Palomino and Matt arrived home, the Ponderosa Fire had a name and it had grown to over 7,000 acres. A sheriff's evacuation order was in effect.
"We just had time to load up all the critters," Palomino explained. "Praise the Lord that Shirley[ wild horse angel Shirley Allen, of Dayton] had 3 of the babies! We loaded DaBubbles and Patches first, but the trailer's “baby door” wasn’t quite finished and DaBubbles thought it was really fun to run out that hole. The goat would run into the trailer as Dabubbles ran out."
Under bright orange and red skies, with the fire " roaring like a jet engine" as it bore down on the ranch, Palomino received a second call for mandatory evacuation. They managed to load the claustrophobic Dakota, and though Chilly Pepper was wary of entering a dark trailer with thrashing horses inside, her faith in Palomino prevailed. With all cats, dogs, horses and wily goat accounted for, they moved to safer territory.
It's not the first time these horses have been rescued. Chilly Pepper was found frozen in the snow next to her dead mother. HoneyBandit, known as the Million Dollar Mustang, was orphaned during the Twin Peaks round-up of wild horses and so badly battered trying to nurse from other mares, he was slated for euthanasia. DaBubbles was attacked by a mountain lion.
Palomino is grateful for the help of friends and neighbors. She explained why her family left without clothes and toletrie and ended up spending their money on food for the animals. "It was snowing ash, and you just get this really creepy feeling and it is very hard to think clearly."
The Wild Horse Sanctuary, home of the real Phantom Stallion, is in Shingletown, just a few miles away from the heart of the fire.
There, director Dianne Nelson is braced for trouble, but "So far, the prevailing winds have kept the fire from burning our way. The smoke is terrible, but the flames have stayed off about four miles."
Dianne says the offers of help are comforting, but "you can't evacuate wild horses." The 5,000 acre ranch provides sanctuary for hundreds of rescued mustangs, and five years of nearby wildfires have actually created a "safe zone" around the ranch. In addition, the sanctuary has many clearings, and, Dianne says, "Wild horses are smart. They head for open land."
Although the Wild Horse Sanctuary's mustangs are free to obey their instincts and seek safety on thousands of acres, wild horses trapped and confined by BLM are in small corrals throughout the West.
When BLM's Palomino Valley corrals in Nevada were threatened by July's Ironwood Fire, a BLM spokesman told KRNV reporter Karen Todd Griffin that the Federal agency would need 24 hours to evacate the wild horses.
Get more information about Chilly Pepper Miracle Mustang rescue
Get more information about the Wild Horse Sanctuary
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