Los Angeles County animal control officials have detailed their response to a Sylmar ranch where nearly 30 horses died during the Creek fire, as public concern over the incident grows.
The fast-moving fire was first reported at 3:43 a.m. Tuesday. The family who owns Rancho Padilla, where the horses perished, said they awoke to flames and were instructed by a fire crew to leave.
The county’s Department of Animal Care and Control received a request for assistance at the location at 8:45 a.m. Tuesday, according to a statement issued by the department late Thursday.
When animal control officers arrived, the statement said, they found a barn burning, with some areas of the roof collapsing. Officers “could see and hear horses in distress” and quickly freed two horses and a puppy. They later returned to the burning barn to rescue four more horses, which they placed in an arena on the property away from the fire.
They flagged down a fire truck to douse the barn with water, according to the statement. When additional officers arrived, the barn was still burning, it said.
When the officers entered, they had to break padlocks on 10 stalls in order to rescue the horses inside, the department said. The barn then became inaccessible because of the fire and collapsing roof.
The rescued horses were taken to the command post for the fire, where some were returned to concerned owners. The remaining animals were taken to the department’s emergency shelter at Pierce College, the statement said.
A team of four officers, joined by owners with trailers, returned to the ranch to rescue the horses that had been placed in the arena.
“Sadly, many horses locked in their stalls at the barn did not survive the fire,” the statement read.
The Padilla family, who was at the ranch Wednesday morning, put the count of dead horses at 29. They had their own horses stabled there and boarded horses for others.
The animal control department’s statement comes as public outcry increases over the horses’ deaths, with many on social media expressing outrage about some of the horses being locked in their stalls. The Padillas are no longer talking publicly about the fire, saying they had been receiving hate mail.
Three of the horses taken to Pierce College were injured in the fire, and animal control officials said the animals immediately got emergency veterinary treatment. One had to be euthanized due to the extent of its injuries, officials said. The second was treated and released, and the third is still at the college undergoing treatment.
The L.A. County Animal Care Foundation is paying for the medical treatment of the third horse, which is expected to recover after several months of care.
County animal control officers are “committed to saving the lives of animals and heroically struggled in this difficult situation to save as many horses as possible,” the agency’s statement read. “The department extends its deepest condolences to the horse owners who lost their beloved equine friends.”
Officials stressed that those who have horses on their property should have evacuation plans in place and that stalls or other enclosures should never be padlocked or otherwise made inaccessible.
Horse owners were also encouraged to microchip horses for identification during emergencies and to have alternative housing sites established in case of evacuations.