RANCHO SANTA FE — It has been nearly five years since the Witch Creek Fire swept through the area, killing two people, destroying more than 1,000 homes and burning more than 200,000 acres.
Those who lived through the fire all have a story to tell and they learned a few things.
Rochelle Putnam, a Rancho Santa Fe Association Director, evacuated her horses from the blaze and as a result made an evacuation list to make it easier next time. Because fire season is here, she decided to share it with other horse owners.
“We evacuated six horses, two at a time. The fairground was full and we didn’t want to get on the freeway with the horse trailer in 90 degree weather with traffic rumored to be really bad to go to Camp Pendleton or The Oaks,” she said.
“We started out at Torrey Pines State Beach, figuring the fire wouldn’t go that far, but they closed the gates and we had to move to an empty lot near UTC on Towne Center Drive and we spent the night there with the horses tied to the trailer.”
Late on day two, stalls opened up at the fairgrounds and they were able to move their horses there.
She said if her memory serves, they were evacuated on Monday and returned to their home on Thursday.
Looking back, she said she did not know how close the fire had come to Rancho Santa Fe.
”We knew we were evacuated and we knew the smoke was bad, but we didn’t know that it darn near burned into the village here in the ranch. If it hadn’t been for the heroic efforts of the firefighters, it would have been a lot worse,” she said.
She said the list came together after the last fire and from different situations such as the massive power loss Southern California experienced when even cell phones wouldn’t work.
But, she said, while some of the items on the list seem odd, there is a reason for every one of them.
For example, “map of Southern California” is useful if someone says, we’re taking our horses to Fiesta Island or the Oaks or someone else says, “the fire is burning near “Zumaque” or “Harmony Grove,” you can lay out the map and figure out where you need to be.
It’s much easier than using your vehicle’s navigation. An iPad would be handy for this same reason and people need to have a car charger for their electronics.
The indelible markers can be used to write your cell phone number on your horses hooves, possibly handy if they get loose.
Another useful oddity: We keep our freezer full of empty juice and milk jugs with frozen water. It not only saves on power because less air goes out when you open the door, but if our power goes out, we can keep a few in there and transfer some to the fridge to help keep it cold and I guess in a pinch we could drink or cook with it.”
Her own list is printed in a little binder and kept near their emergency supplies along with her horse information sheets.
Fire Season tips for Horse Owners
Know how to open your garage door and if applicable, your gate, without power.
If you have a truck and trailer, make sure that your gas tank is full. If there are fires burning or a Santa Ana, consider hooking up your trailer to be ready. If you don’t own a truck and trailer, coordinate with someone who does, and have a plan in advance to work together to get your horse(s) to safety.
Look at the following information, and fill an old gym bag or two in your garage (or keep it in your horse trailer if you have one) that’s ready to go with the items listed.
Prepare Horse information sheet(s):
Have a sheet ready to tape or staple on a door or stall for your horse(s) which includes: your horse’s name, description including color and height and any markings (a photo cut and pasted onto the document is ideal), and key contact information (cell phones, veterinarian), and feeding/medication info.
It’s easy to buy large 5 gallon containers of water at the grocery store (like Ralphs) to keep on hand in case you end up somewhere without easy access to water for your horses. Keep them in or near your trailer. A horse drinks 6 to 8 gallons a day, more when it’s hot.
Things you should own:
A car charger for your cell phone and iPad/laptop. You’ll want Internet access wherever you end up but you may not have power.
Handling horses safely requires that you wear boots or sturdy shoes and gloves.
You can access the American Red Cross’s website for more information and ideas, but at a minimum, you should have:
toothbrushes and toothpaste
a change of clothes, socks, underwear
sunscreen, chapstick, eye drops (it’s hot and dry during fire season)
contact lenses, glasses, prescriptions
hiking shoes or boots
Information sheet for your horse (see above)
Buckets for Hay & Water, muck bucket
Horse First aid kit
Lead ropes, extra halters, lunge line
Broom, shovel, rake
Saddles, pads, girths, bridles
Supplements, medications, electrolytes if applicable
Cell phones, chargers
Blankets, pillows, camp chairs
lantern or REI type headlamp
Safety & cleaning items to consider
First aid kit
roll of toilet paper
handi-wipes and/or Purell
REI has a mini-survival kit that contains items such as:
lens magnifier, signal mirror, firestarter and tinder, whistle, compass, fishing kit, nylon thread and needle, scalpel blade, duct tape, aluminum foil, nylon cord, wire, safety pins, pencil and note paper
water purification tablets
Microlink emergency radio, solar and self-powered, includes USB phone charger
Handiwipes & toilet paper
2 Flashlights (small and large)
maps of So. Cal.
canned tuna or chicken
dried fruit and nuts or packaged trail mix
boxed juices and milks
plastic silverware and paper plates and napkins
by all means if you have a portable grill, pack that also!
For dogs and cats:
food bowls & waste bags
leash, collar, ID tag
have a carrier handy for your pets
Keep these phone numbers handy:
Del Mar Fairgrounds: (858) 794-1171, Switchboard (858) 755-1161
Del Mar Horsepark: (858) 794-1171
San Diego Polo Fields: (858) 481-9217
Rancho Riding Club evacuation hotline: (858) 756-2923
Your veterinarian’s number