WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT IN THE IMAGES BELOW!
The Padilla Ranch was directly in the danger zone of Creek Fire, one of the largest out of five which have been ravaging the region. Ranch owners who were forced to abandon dozens of horses as wildfires swept their properties on Tuesday returned once the flames had passed to find almost all of the animals dead.
At 3.43am on Tuesday, the ranch owners, who live up the hill on the dusty canyon road where it sits, awoke to flames and were forced to evacuate by firefighters who told them to leave without hesitation. In the process, they had to leave behind the 60 horses they look after on behalf of their owners in the nearby stables. When they returned, they found 29 had died.
Ranch owner Patricia Padilla said she was reluctant to leave the animals but had no choice because her own life was in risk.
‘All I could think about was the horses, the horses, the horses. It felt like you were in the middle of hell with everything burning around you. And [the firefighters] were like, “Get out, get out, get out.” The structures can get rebuilt, but the lives of the horses can’t. … That’s my biggest heartbreak,’ – said Patricia.
Virginia Padilla, another of the sisters who runs the ranch, said it was not the first time they had been at risk.
‘We’ve always had fires, and it’s always been one of those things like, “We’ll be OK,”. I guess it was just… we weren’t.’