Detwiler Fire: Animal evacuations under way

The Merced Horsemen's Association is one of a number of evacuation centers set up for large animals.

It's one thing to prepare for an evacuation during a wildfire.

But it's another, when animals are in the mix.

"They're family. We can't... you can't express that very much," says Kenneth Davis of Cathey's Valley. "Your animals are your heart."

Davis had been following the Detwiler fire in Mariposa County through scanners and word-of-mouth.

He had been optimistic crews would tackle it quickly.

"There's been fires in that area before and they've always been able to stop them at Bear Valley Road," he says.

But by Tuesday morning, it really grew.

A friend told him the fire had jumped Old Highway Road.

"A friend told me, 'It's gonna be in your back yard in two hours,'" Davis said.

"Our first concern is we have to horses, two donkeys, chickens, cats -- and my wife is running around with her head cut off, too."

Fortunately for him and other animal owners, a number of volunteers have been working around the clock to ease the burden of caring for their animals.

The Merced Horsemen's Association is one of a number of groups offering to shelter animals until crews give the all clear.

The arena and grounds north of Merced usually host horse shows, classes and jumping competitions.

Now, it's housing nearly 50 animals.

"We've taken in horses, mules, miniature donkeys, miniature horses, goats, llamas, alpacas as well," says Wendy Auldridge, President of the Merced Horsemen's Association. "We have lots of room out here, lots of stalls, pens. We're set up for animals."

She says volunteers and area businesses dropped off feed and hay Tuesday.

Another load was expected Wednesday evening.

"We're so happy we have this facility to help them out," Auldridge says.

Her organization has at least seven crews rounding up animals across Mariposa County.

It's also allowing evacuees to park their RVs on the grounds.

There is no hook-up, but Davis and others don't mind.

"We're not moving until they tell us we can go back into our area," he says. "We've been assured by people that are still up there that our area is safe. The fire burned right by us."

Merced Horsemen's Association is able to round up animals and has space.

If you need animals picked up, you can call Wendy Auldridge at 209-354-9437.

Animals are also being housed at locations in Mariposa and Merced Counties.

The Mariposa County Fairgrounds, Mariposa Equine Events Center and Coarsegold Rodeo grounds are housing large animals.

The Central California Animal Disaster Team (CCADT) is housing smaller animals at Oakhurst Evangelical Free Church.

A spokesperson for the Mariposa County Sheriff's Office estimates the following amounts of animals are among the evacuees:

  • 82 horses
  • 6 donkeys
  • 27 cows
  • 43 goats
  • 10 pigs
  • 2 llamas
  • 8 sheep
  • 2 alpacas
  • 1 mule
  • 106 dogs
  • 100 cats
  • 10 birds
  • 1 duck

Hay and feed donations are needed at Mariposa County Fairgrounds and Coarsegold Rodeo Grounds.

In Coarsegold, you can reach Belinda at 559-676-3702.

Evans Feed in Madera is volunteering to deliver feed.

If you'd like to donate money to buy feed, you can call Evan Feed at 673-9420.

Box Feed of North Fork is also accepting donations to buy feed. Donations will be delivered the Coarsegold Rodeo Grounds. Call Box Feed at (559) 877-4787 or (559) 877-3957.

CCADT is also in need of donations.

To help, click here.

If you are an evacuee, but were unable to take along your animals, the Mariposa County Sheriff's Office has a list of animals volunteers have rescued and are now under veterinary care. You can call 209-966-3615.

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