Many Horses That Burned to Death in Creek Fire Were Locked in Stalls, County Says

Many of the horses burned to death by the Creek Fire in the Sylmar area were locked in stalls, authorities said late Thursday.

In a statement, Los Angeles County’s Department of Animal Care and Control provided details of their response to the Sylmar ranch where 29 dead horses were found.

Virginia Padilla, left, who lost 29 horses at her Padilla Ranch on Little Tujunga Canyon Road, is comforted by friend Shelby Hope. The horses, many of them boarded animals, were killed in the Creek fire. (Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Virginia Padilla, left, who lost 29 horses at her Padilla Ranch on Little Tujunga Canyon Road, is comforted by friend Shelby Hope. The horses, many of them boarded animals, were killed in the Creek Fire. (Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

The department received a request for help at the barn on Tuesday at 8:45 a.m., about five hours after the fire broke out, according to officials.

Animal control officers responded immediately and arrived to find the stable burning with the roof collapsing, the statement from the department said. The officers, who saw and heard animals in distress, retrieved two horses and a puppy.

After placing those animals in their trailer, the officers returned to the barn and rescued four more horses before flames blocked the entrance, the statement said. Those horses were then placed in an arena on the property away from the flames.

The officers flagged down a fire truck to attend to the barn before leaving to relocate animals, the statement said.

Additional teams returned to the still-burning barn to rescue more horses, according to the department. The officers broke the padlocks of 10 stalls to retrieve animals before the stable became inaccessible, the department said.

The officers returned some of the horses to their owners, and others were taken to an emergency shelter at Pierce College.

Three horses transported to the college were injured by the flames and remained in treatment Thursday, the Department of Animal Care and Control said. One of the animals was released and another was euthanized because of the extent of its injuries. A third horse is expected to recover after several months of treatment, according to the department. The Los Angeles County Animal Care Foundation will fund that horse’s medical expenses, officials said.

Four officers went back to the barn after taking animals to the college, and along with the horses’ owners who had trailers, they rescued the horses in the arena.

“Sadly, many horses locked in their stalls at the barn did not survive the fire,” the statement from the department said.

The tragedy serves as a reminder for horse owners to have evacuation plans,  officials said.

“Horse stalls should never be padlocked or otherwise made inaccessible,” the statement said. “Early evacuations are key to ensuring these tragedies do not occur.”

The department also encourages horse owners to microchip their animals for identification during emergencies.

“The Department shares in the grief over the loss of these beautiful horses, and all other animals affected by the Creek and Rye fires,” the department said in the statement.

As of Friday afternoon, the Creek Fire has burned 15,000 acres in the Sylmar area. Most residents who evacuated were able to return home Thursday evening and Friday.

Those who want to help animals affected by the fires can make donations at lacountyanimals.org.