Horses Displaced as Fires Rage in British Columbia

Rain, cooler temperatures, and tenacious firefighters are finally extinguishing many of the fires that have burned in British Columbia, Canada, for the last six weeks. Owners of one Thoroughbred farm are rebuilding after flames took two barns, while two others are rejoicing after a close call.

Lightning ignited the first major fire near Kamloops July 30. By Aug. 1, the flames threatened Ron and Rae Fawcett's Tod Mountain Thoroughbreds near Heffley Creek, and eventually raged on three sides of their 150-acre farm.

"The fire to the north of us started July 30, but it was 10 kilometers away," Rae Fawcett said. "On Aug. 1, the fire started to the south. We lost electricity around 4:30 that afternoon, and we decided to evacuate at 6:30 that night."

Fawcett said the Kamloops Veterinary Clinic helped coordinate efforts that resulted in 101 horses moving from their farm to the Kamloops Livestock Co-op.

"By 7:30 p.m., the first of the trailers arrived, and by 11:30 p.m., we were off the farm completely," she said. "The largest group of horses that left on one trailer was seven, and no one had to make an extra trip, so you can imagine the number of trailers that arrived at our farm. It was a unique feeling that everybody was out there to help everybody else."

The Fawcetts spent 10 days living in a trailer at the cooperative with their horses before they could return home. The evacuation also interrupted preparation of their seven yearlings slated to sell in Vancouver at the Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society's annual yearling sale on Sept. 9. The Fawcetts still managed to top the sale when their Doneraile Court--Aly's Dearest colt brought $55,000 in Canadian funds.

"I must admit I felt our horses didn't look quite as good as they usually do, but people seemed to be able to see through that," Fawcett said. "They had some bumps and bangs, but that was all."

In the Kelowna area, about 110 miles south of Kamloops, 70 horses are still displaced after a fire hit Aug. 22. Terry and Wally Leung managed to move all their horses about 15 miles away to Russell and Lois Bennett's Flying Horse Farms, but as they returned to try and salvage valuables from the house, flames loomed on the ridge above the small canyon where the farm sits.

A call to 911 brought firefighters to the base of the canyon. Their house was saved, but two barns--including $8,000 worth of hay--farm equipment, and much of the farm's fencing was lost.

"It burned all the way up the canyon, came down one side of the creek, crossed our farm, then went up the other side," Wally Leung said. "If Terry hadn't called 911, the house would've been gone."

Terry and Doug Black also moved their horses to Flying Horse, but their Rumour Creek Farm escaped any damage.