Updated May 3, 2013 @ 11:37 p.m.
The school is now accommodating 25 evacuated horses, according to the Boots and Saddles Club Facebook group page.
End of update
Pierce College’s Equestrian Center is currently housing horses owned by Hidden Valley residents who were ordered to evacuate their homes due to the widespread wildfire today.
As a school with the amenities to keep horses on campus, Pierce plays part in a network of Southland facilities that work with emergency crews to aid with evacuations, according to Betsy Connolly, a horse science instructor who is the acting organizer for the evacuation.
“We all coordinated because we know we can’t keep people safe unless there is a plan to keep their horses safe,” she said. “Horse owners will not leave their precious horses behind.”
Connolly said that the evacuation alert was issued at approximately 2 p.m., and shortly after, she received the call to have Pierce as a temporary shelter for the horses.
Student and faculty volunteers are working with an emergency evacuation team to keep the process of sheltering the horses as smoothly as possible. In addition to volunteer workers, Pierce is providing food and water for the horses, according to Samantha Gartsman, president of the Boots and Saddles Club.
As of now, none of the organizers know how long they will have to keep the horses on campus, nor do they know how many of them will be housed at Pierce.
“We could have anywhere from 100 to 300 horses,” said Jim Brown, one of the security officers on campus who is helping out with the evacuation.
Volunteers will be present at the Equestrian Center until the threat subsides.
“We’re here until the fire danger is over,” Connolly said.
Some of the horses are being placed in the stalls of one of the barns at the Equestrian Center, while additional makeshift stalls are being prepared in the arenas on campus.
“We’ve never had this situation happen before,” said 22-year-old Luis Perez, who has been working at the Equestrian Center since last semester.
Lori Seely, from the Los Angeles County Animal Care and Control Volunteer Equine Response Team, says that she has worked with the Pierce team “a thousand times.” She applauds the campus team on their ability to keep up with the emergency situation.
“They’re amazing,” Seely said.
This is despite the fact that because it is a Friday, the number of Pierce volunteers is particularly low today.
“That’s nobody’s fault. Nobody knew this was going to happen,” she said.
Incidentally, this weekend is also the first time Pierce will be hosting a 4-H youth development event, with equine competitions planned for the arenas in the Equestrian Center. For the event, about 20 horses will be housed in one of the barns.
Alli Eggleston, who will be participating in the event, doesn’t think that the fire evacuations will affect the competitions.
“Our horses are calm and good with others,” she said.