Animal Control volunteers were ready when they got the call

Steve Gerace
A screenshot from a video taken by Jaime Risner while she and Alan Woods were helping rescue horses at R Ranch on the first day of the Klamathon Fire, July 5, 2018. They were two of many volunteers working with Siskiyou Animal Control during the fire. All of the horses were moved to safe places during the first two days of the fire, according to Jodi Aceves of Animal Control.

Siskiyou County Animal Control volunteers were ready when they got the word that animals needed to be rescued as the Klamathon Fire began its rapid spread from the Hornbrook area on Thursday, July 5.

Cathy and Dave Athens of Mount Shasta and Cathy’s daughter Jaime Risner and her boyfriend Alan Woods of Grenada were four of the many volunteers who put in some long days through that weekend.

It was harrowing at times, especially during the early hours of the fire when the flames were approaching a field full of horses at R Ranch as a plane was dropping fire retardant nearby.

Not only were the horses’ lives in danger, but volunteer Matt Rokes said “people thought they were going to die.”

Jodi Aceves of Animal Control said 18 of the 71 horses at R Ranch were rescued prior to the fire coming through and destroying some structures. She said one of the planes in the area sprayed retardant over a large group of horses, saving all of them. The following day, the remaining 53 horses were taken to Oregon.

Volunteer Tom Taylor was praised for using his ATV on Thursday to move horses out of the fire’s path and give them a fighting chance to survive.

Animal Control volunteers and others brought many animals to the large animal evacuation center that was established at the Siskiyou Golden Fairgrounds in Yreka.

A staging area for the volunteers was established at the Chevron station in Hornbrook, and they drove from there to countless areas to evacuate animals to the fair or make sure other animals had food and water at locations that were not safe for residents.

On Saturday, they evacuated horses, donkeys, goats and pigs.

Dave Athens said he put more than 350 miles on his pickup truck from Thursday through Sunday, including delivering 250 gallons of water to Hornbrook.

Seeing the destruction caused by the fire in Hornbrook was heart-wrenching, Dave Athens said, describing buildings turned to rubble and “vehicles melted on the ground... Some people lost everything but the clothes on their backs.”

But he added that he enjoys “volunteering for this county. It makes me feel good that I’m doing something for the community.”

Cathy said volunteers drove to Gazelle Thursday evening to pick up 12 bales of hay that was donated by Dick Anderson to take to the fairgrounds.

Later, Horses for Humanity donated 84 bales of hay.

Volunteers who want to help with Animal Control fill out an application and are contacted when the department needs help. They use their own personal vehicles.

Such was the nature of the volunteers’ work that the sack lunches and sack dinners they received were “really appreciated,” Dave said.

Cathy said Jaime is known to Animal Control as “the horse whisperer,” and she and Alan were assigned special tasks to assist animals that needed attention beyond the usual.

Aceves referred to Alan Woods as the mule whisperer.

The following people donated hay, feed, horse supplies and more towards the Klamathon Fire rescue:

Cindy and Lily Bennet donated shipping boots, fly blankets, halters, leads and lunge line.

David and Cindy Baudek were willing to donate if needed.

Lynne Halpenny of Shasta Shadow Ranch offered three barns with 12 acres each for use.

Clifford West offered five acres of pasture for horses, goats or whatever.

Renee Tickner donated halters, lead ropes, small troughs and half barrels.

Peggy Scott offered 1/2 an acre on Highway A-12.

Walmart donated 600 feet of hose for barns.

Southern Oregon Emergency Animal Services Representative David Tokar donated bags of horse food, 200 feet of hose, nozzles, buckets, a pallet of salt blocks, pig food, mister supplies, medical supplies and rabbit food, Electrolyte tubes, vet supplies, garbage bags, halters and four trash cans.

Donna Tobtobiasson donated 200 pounds of horse food, cob, pig food, and chicken food.

Sue Saenz of Trails End Ranch donated first aid supplies for large and small animals.

Joshua Pederson donated 20 bales of hay.

Dick Anderson donated 12 bales of hay.

Humanity for Horses donated 84 bales of hay.