For those of you who want to read in Swedish, here is an article in Tidningen Ridsport, with an interview with me and also footage from the fire.
I haven´t had time to put it all down in writing until now, but I would like to try to share with you what happened the last few days. We have had a crazy time here in California, with a wildfire* threatening the barn. We spent Saturday night evacuating about 80 horses from the canyon, to an evacuation center located at a college in Woodland Hills.
We are of course incredibly relieved. Thankful that neither horses, humans or the facility was hurt! The only noticeable now is that the horses are exceptionally fit and we are unusually tired . It was a long Saturday, we loaded horses ‘til after midnight! But apart from the unusual number of shipping boots to pack down again is all pretty much back to normal today, Thursday.
”California has dry, windy, and often hot weather conditions from late spring through autumn that can produce moderate to devastating wildfires. At times, these wildfires are fanned or made worse from strong, dry winds, known as Diablo winds in the northern part of the state and Santa Ana Winds to the south. At this particular time news were that a car drove into an power pole, and some wires fell down causing this #oldfire to start and grow in the heat and drought (> 100 Fahrenheit / 38 C). The fire grew rapidly from 2 acres after a couple of minutes, to having had consumed 516 acres of land in the end.”‘
We learned of the fire in the late afternoon on Saturday. After an hour we realized that the situation could become serious, and began to put the halters on all the horses and tie lead ropes around their necks. We also put name plates made of duct tape on the halters, with info about the horse’s name, and where it came from – very smart! All box doors were left unlocked, all in order for a quick process if we would be forced to evacuate.
When the decision on the evacuation came, everything went incredibly fast. We prepared the horses with shipping boots quickly and then came the transports, in the form of long-trailers, many of which could take as many as six horses. Horse Carriers, neighbors and acquaintances – absolutely fantastic to have so many people coming to rescue so quickly! Police/sheriffs were present and all trailers stayed up on the road outside Mill Creek. We loaded the horses at breakneck speed and they were instantly taken to Pierce College in Woodland Hills, about 15 kilometers from the Canyon.
The Evacuation Center consisted of permanent stalls in long lines. There were horses from several places, but the majority came from us. In addition there were some goats, donkeys and other animals.When the horses arrived, they got number tiles around their necks , and all who ” checked in ” a horse had to sign papers, with signalement, the owner’s name , etc.
When danger was called off after two nights, and the horses went back home, thorough controls were made to secure that the right person checked out the right horse and signed the release papers. There were guards / volunteers on site around the clock. The atmosphere in the place was good, everyone helped each other and showed great consideration. Obviously the talk was about the fire spread and development , as well as when the roads up to the mountains would open again . There was a lot of media on site and several TV spots and newscasts were filmed.
NBC Southern California reporting, including an interview with Mette. The last horse seen in the clip is Rima, who is currently in training with me. Happy to have her and the others home safe!
More from NBC, the end of this clip shows me marching between the stables in the same dirty riding clothes as the day before.. Next time we evacuate (which I hope will never happen!!) I need to remember to bring an extra pair of breeches ;)
Mill Creek is located in the zone covered by a so-called mandatory evacuation . We evacuated virtually all horses at the barn, about 80 of them. It felt unreal to be in the middle of all this, but strangely not directly scary . Everyone had a great ” just do it ” attitude and focused only on getting the horses away as quickly as possible . I don’t think we had time to think too much about what could happen , it was just a question of getting the job done quickly.
I left the barn right after midnight, and drove out of the canyon to sleep at Emma’s place. I brought passport, homebound airline ticket, credit cards and money, just in case. Before I left, I also went in to both of our tack rooms and took lots of pictures of the tack, and specifically the serial numbers on the saddles, for insurance purposes. Pretty scary now when looking back. When I drove out of the canyon, I got pulled over by the sheriffs who told me that if I decided to drive out of the canyon now, I wouldn’t be able to go back, maybe for days, because the roads were in a ”hard closure” regarding inbound traffic.The horses took the drama incredibly good ! Both experienced competition horses , and the riding school horses who are not out and about as often. All who handled the horses made it very calmly and professionally , but I am still surprised at how quiet the horses were . They were really good with the loading , even though it was up on a road with blue lights in the background, for some of the horses even in the dark.
What I thought was most impressive , except how fast it went , was that all the horses came back home completely unharmed. No injuries or accidents during the evacuation . It was also amazing to see how all lined up to help and do everything they could to help. In hindsight I think about how important it is to have a crisis management plan for situations like this . Mill Creek really had a good organization and it feels like it’s something all teams really should emulate – to prepare the solution before the problem comes.
Mette Rosencrantz was here at Mill Creek during the great fire in 1993, when the fire went over the hill closest to our back ring. At that time, the center and all horses survived thanks to people fighting it from within, with fire hoses. Mette told about how the horses were kept inside the riding arena under sprinklers, while the fire raged right behind them.
This time the fire was close to take the same course again. The fire front was just on the edge of the hill in question. Firefighters said that if the fire would come over the ridge, Mill Creek would be in great danger once again, which was why it was decided to evacuate. Now the firemen managed to skillfully turn the fire so that it went the other way . So it was as close to the eye! In hindsight it is easy to think that it went well , but if you like Mette have seen for yourself how bad it can be … We are just incredibly grateful that everything went well and so thankful to these brave firefighters, working under dreadful conditions.
Once again – I’m deeply impressed by how the evacuation was organized, how well information worked, how many volunteers there were and how everyone stepped up to help out! Horse people really are something special! <3