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Santa Clarita CA
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December 15
1987 - Incorporation: Santa Clarita officially becomes a city [story]

L.A. County Animal Care and Control logoLONG BEACH, Calif. — The tragedy of the deaths of 29 horses burned by the Creek Fire at a ranch in Sylmar has caused extensive public concern. The Department shares in the grief over the loss of these beautiful horses, and all other animals affected by the Creek and Rye fires.

We also wish to acknowledge the extraordinary efforts made by officers in response to this event and provide information regarding their response to this devastating situation.

The Department received a request for assistance at this location at 8:45 a.m. on Monday morning.

Los Angeles County Animal Control Officers responded immediately and arrived at the location to find a barn burning, with some areas of the roof collapsing. The officers could see and hear horses in distress and quickly retrieved two horses and a puppy. After securing these animals in their trailer and vehicle, the officers returned to the burning barn to rescue an additional four horses before the flames blocked their entry.

The officers placed these four horses in an arena on the property that was away from the fire. Before they left for their own safety and that of the animals they had secured, the officers flagged down a fire truck to douse the barn with water and trailered the horses to Incident Command to relocate them and obtain additional assistance.

Additional officer teams returned to the property to find the barn still burning and entered the barn to rescue the horses. The stalls were padlocked, and the officers were forced to break the padlocks of ten stalls to rescue the horses. The barn became inaccessible due to the fire and the collapsing roof.

The officers transported these horses to Incident command, returned some of the horses to their concerned owners, and the remaining horses were transported to the Department’s emergency sheltering location at Pierce College.

A team of four officers returned to the ranch to rescue the horses in the arena. The officers were joined by owners with trailers. The horses in the arena were all retrieved by the owner and by the officers. Sadly, many horses locked in their stalls at the barn did not survive the fire.

Three of the horses transported to Pierce College were injured by the fire. The Department immediately obtained emergency veterinary treatment for them, which is ongoing. One horse has been medically released. Sadly, despite all efforts one was euthanized due to the extent of its injuries. A third horse will recover after several months of treatment. The Los Angeles County Animal Care Foundation is paying for the medical treatment of this horse.

DACC officers are committed to saving the lives of animals and heroically struggled in this difficult situation to save as many horses as possible. The Departments extends its deepest condolences to the horse owners who lost their beloved equine friends.

This event serves as a tragic reminder for those who keep horses to develop actionable evacuation plans to reduce loss and injury. Horse stalls should never be padlocked or otherwise made inaccessible. Early evacuations are key to ensuring these tragedies do not occur. The Department also encourages horse owners to microchip their horses for identification during emergencies, and to have alternative housing sites established in advance in case of evacuations. The Department and Foundation also thank the many generous donors who have contributed money to assist animals affected by the fires. Donations may be made at www.lacountyanimals.org.

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  1. Lew Latka Lew Latka says:

    Omg, thx for efforts, BUT!! Wtf.

  2. Padlocked stalls when your boarding horses is just unbelievable – those lives could have been saved.. Complete negligence on the facility… No question..

    • I believe the padlocks were placed on the stalls by the horses’ owners. At least that’s the impression I got from a news report I saw yesterday.

      • Ronda says:

        To all of those saying that the horse owners put the locks on. I know for a fact that the ranch owners put them on. My friends horses, 4, one in foal all died in that fire. I asked her why they were locked in and she said the OWNER put the locks on and gave the horse owner the key! We all knew there were high wind advisories and high fire danger. Those people went to bed in all those high winds knowing those horsss were paddle locked in their stalls. If you are the owner of a boarding facility it is your responsibility to take care of those horses and if you know there is a danger which was all over the news for two days before this happened you better be calling horse owners and making a plan of evacuation. They could have taken turns maybe in shift dog a few hours through this wind ordeal and this would not have happened. The whole reason they put these advisories on the news is to help us prepare. There was zero preparation at this ranch. It was neglegence on their part.. yes the horse owners could have been more prepared but it is my experience that people tend to listen to the owners of the ranch about what the dangers are. And if the horse owner did put a lock on a stall the ranch owner should have gone and cut it off, not allowed them to be on EVER!!! I hope this family does not rebuild. I hope they get out of the boarding business altogether. They are not not be trusted!

        • Rebecca says:

          I have to agree with you … there should have been a fire watch all through the night and days when these conditions are in place. And no way should those stalls have been padlocked. I’ve been on fire watch before; my friends and I took 4 hour shifts and walked the boundaries of our property to make sure we knew if we needed to bug out quickly! And we moved horses ahead of time!

    • I agree with you 100% Vicki

    • Tammy Swaim Tammy Swaim says:

      THANK YOU!!!! County animal “Care” my ASS!!!!

      • April Hughes says:

        They did the best they could. How many horses would you have saved with your apparent super powers?

        • cathi l laughlin says:

          You don’t have to have super powers smart ass to realize that padlocking them in their stalls led to their death. How stupid can you be going to bed when a fire is raging out of control. I hope charges are brought against this ranch, what they did is unbelievable.

  3. So sad. This just breaks my heart. Thank you for your efforts.

  4. Tragic
    Thank You to your officers for their heroic efforts.
    What I want to know is who was caring for these beauties and why were the gates locked?
    Who could abandon that property without letting the horses out?

  5. Rose says:

    Will the owner have charges filed against them. It’s illegal in other states.

  6. Padlocked stalls are criminal behavior! Especially when you are boarding someone else’s horses! This upsets me so much! This family ranch has supposedly had horses for a long time they should know better. This is heartbreaking these beautiful animals were burned to death because of stupid humans! My heartfelt condolences to the owners of these horses for your loss. However, the owners of this property, and/or the ones who padlocked these horses in their stalls to die should be held accountable. Thank you for your heroic efforts to save these animals. I am having to explain to my very upset, horse-loving teenage daughter tonight that unfortunately these horses were burned alive by stupid humans! Even a teenager knows you DON’T EVER PADLOCK STALLS!

  7. Cindy says:

    Why did the owner
    Say on the news that they had to leave at 430am and couldn’t get
    To the horses. Something doesn’t seem right Thank you for
    Doing the best you could…

  8. I applaud the heroics shown by these officers ! It is a terrible tragedy but I am very sure they did everything to save those horses.

  9. Sad . This just break my heart .

  10. Rachel LeeAnn Williams says:

    As a owner of two horses, and as someone who was forced to evacuate my own horses from the Thomas Fire, I was deeply disturbed and disgusted with this horrendous and stupid incident that very well could have saved innocent horses. I feel HORRIBLE and broken hearted about what happened to those horses. I encourage that these people, especially the Barn owner, to be charged with negligence or something that will make them pay, and go learn that what they did was not okay. I honestly only feel bad for the poor horses that were stuck and burned alive. They were the innocent ones. They deserve justice.
    These people should feel awful about this. I hate to be cruel, but this is must be shown that this is not okay. I hope no one else is stupid enough to lock their horses in, or any animal that has absolute no way out. This needs to be shared EVERYWHERE to alert people the dangers of being negligent.

  11. Teresa Seipel says:

    Thank you so much for your efforts and putting your lives on the line to try to save the horses. The property owners should be held accountable for padlocking those stalls and pretty much signing a death warrant for those poor horses. Unbelievably sad.

  12. PHM says:

    I read yesterday that one trainer was talking to his head groom, while he was in LA. WHAT was the trainer doing in LA that was more important than rescuing the horses under his care? I honestly cannot remember the trainers name, and there might have been something more important than the lives of those horses which had been entrusted to him. I would like to hear it. I saw a lot of grooms and helpers in those videos. Not so many trainers

    • Darlene says:

      If you are referring to the Thoroughbred facility, San Luis Rey. The trainer being in LA, not at this facility. It is very common for a race trainer to not be with every horse at all times in their stable. The “Trainer” in racing, would also be referred to as ” the conditioner” . race trainers have many highly competent people working for them. We are the actual, ” hands on” people. The trainer manages the horses schedule and career. The staff knows what they are doing, we do not need the ” Trainer” to hold our hand, we just follow the program laid out by trainer, adjusting if necessary. Plus, no racehorse stalls are ever padlocked. Never. Halters are at the ready, by every stall. That’s why race personnel managed to save most of these 400-500 horses on the san Luis Rey grounds. Skilled , brave to heroic measures personnel on site and despite no warning, able to save most of the horses.

      • Darlene Neisess says:

        Thank you to everyone at San Luis Rey who worked relentlessly in working to remove the horses to safety. Clearly there was a sense of plan even though people were working against the most extreme adverse conditions. From one who has been in those situations, additional help is often blocked from coming in as well. It is sad for the loss of the horses but knowing it could have been much much worse.

  13. Julie Lindberg says:

    Thank you for your efforts and for clarifying what happened

  14. Lisa korell says:

    The lives of these horses could have been spared had barns not been padlocked. Padlocking barns is a death sentance for horses and sadly that is just what happened . Lesson learned at the expense of the horses lives . If you have had horses and a favaluty as long as they seemed to have then you know better not to do such a thing . At the first sign o fire these padlocks should have been cut and horses set free. If u can use a phone you can cut locks first .

  15. Living in a fire prone area and not having an evacuation plan is just negligent especially when someone is relying on you to care for their animal! Padlocking stalls? How can you care for horses if you can’t get to them? Criminal!!!!

  16. Laura Gilbreath says:

    This article is riddled with fake news.
    Get it right and take this down!

    • Sandy Waller says:

      As a horse owner that has been through a fire with my horses, there is so much wrong with this story! People that know the owner said she was awakened at 4:30 am, yet this story said the call for help came at 8:45 am, hum! Padlocks are used for one thing, to secure an animal when board is not paid! No responsible horse owner would padlock their horses stall in case the horse was sick, injured or there was a fire! I have 3 horses and we went through a fire in OC. The barn owner had proper brush clearance, an evacuation plan, a boarder phone chain list! She contacted the fire department that she had 65 head on the ranch and they came, the roads were blocked by police, but they let us in with our trailer at our own risk! The authorities don’t just let horses die! The owner turned tail and ran! There is no excuse for this tragedy, the owner leaves horses in her care and Animal Control risks their life to save the horses they could! Criminal charges need to be filed and this girl needs to never be allowed to keep horses again. She needs to relinquish custody of her horse that was burned so badly, but she doesn’t need to pay for. Sorry, no excuse for this to happen, locks never, brush clearance absolutely! Now I read they are saying it was caused by unmaintained Edison lines, ugh! Take responsibility for the death of these 45 beautiful horses that lost their lives because of you, nobody else, just you! 60 head and she was alone, unbelievable!

  17. Dennis Maki Dennis Maki says:

    Mike Stout, Julie Molzahn, sounds like the stalls were locked making saving difficult..

  18. Linda says:

    You have INCORRECT INFORMATION! The fire started on TUESDAY, NOT MONDAY, and the call was at 3:45am not 8:46am! Please put out a correction statement!!!!!!!!

  19. Wandamae Lombardi says:

    I guess this will be asked thousands of times…why on God Green earth would you lock a horse with padlocks….this will be a problem for this ranch….for sure.

  20. Lexy Gould Lexy Gould says:

    This is heart breaking

  21. There should NEVER be a padlock on a stall!!!

  22. I am glad they are looking into it. The Padlock just killed me, who does that? Anyone helping could not even let the horses out. Heartbreaking.

  23. Taryn says:

    Stalls are padlocked for many reasons. One owner has his stall locked because people were trying to steal his horse. Some ranch owners lock the stalls because there are dishonest people who don’t pay board and then will take their horse away in the middle of the night and get away with it. The ranch owners had no notice of the fire and were told to leave or they would be arrested. I heard that they were promised that responders would get the horses out and as said here, they just couldn’t get to them in time. It is very sad and very unfortunate and I wish I could have done something to help. There are many parts to a situation that not everyone knows, so it is not right to go around bashing other people when you don’t know all the facts.

    • cc says:

      As animal control stated: Stalls should NEVER be padlocked. No reason EVER. This should be common sense but once again it will probably have to become a law to protect animals. Padlocking a stall for unpaid board is cruel to animals and farm owners should understand that sometimes there will be unpaid board, its part of the business so factor that in to your bottom line. Farm owners can lien the horse etc.to try and recover the loss they are due. As far as being arrested if they stayed-read the book Fire Horse with Boyd Martin. True horseman don’t abandoned helpless horses. They stay they fight and risk personal injury for those that CANNOT help themselves…

    • Christopher Jones says:


      My thoughts exactly.

      From CNN…

      “Horse people are a community,” Clark told CNN affiliate KSWB. “Leaving one behind is like leaving a child behind … you just can’t do it. Even if it’s a horse running down the road you grab it.”

      “Authorities said hundreds of pets, donkeys and even llamas have filled college facilities, county fairgrounds and sports facilities after they were turned into temporary animal shelters.”

      The horses which were trapped in a part of the stable where the roof collapsed (padlocks aside) and authorities refused the owners access because of the danger. Winds changed the direction of the fire and these ranchers were evidently surprised by the severity of the situation.

  24. Jan sydnam says:

    Unfortunately, microchips must correspond to an appropriate chip reader. When people move, the vets/animal caregivers may not have the appropriate reader.
    A brand or permanent tattoo is far more beneficial.
    ALWAYS keep paperwork on your horses (in fact on all your animals) current.

  25. Francine says:

    A State Law should be passed immediately to make it illegal to padlock stall doors. Also, every facility that boards horses should be required to install a fire suppression system.

  26. Betsy andersen says:

    My lord!!! So many mistakes made on everyone’s part. Horse owners, owners of the facility, whoever put padlocks on stables and the list could go on. I am appalled and my heart is broken realizing the horrible death these horses died. Where were their owners?????

  27. Mimi Applegate Elder says:

    With most profound gratitude to the Animal Control and Fire Department personnel who so valiantly tried to rescue these poor horses.

    Sincerely hoping that LACAC will PROSECUTE the owners and staff of the Padilla Ranch for criminal negligence and animal cruelty. There was ample time to safely evacuate all horses from the facility during the EXTREME FIRE
    DANGER ALERTS—and the volunteers, emergency stabling, and horse trailers available to have done so. That, despite their location with poor access and ehress they failed to do so was to uneccessarily endanger these
    animals. To then PADLOCK THEM IN was to ensure a cruel and tortorous death. Please ask the District Attorney to initiate proceedings against them immediately.

    • Carisa says:

      This ranch owner should be prosecuted for animal cruelty. If the horses were people she would be tried for murder. It should be the same with animals. They don’t have a voice! But they feel, they have emotions, and they are real live beings. God rest their souls. I hope there is a horse heaven and these horses are in it. I am outraged, broken hearted and disgusted to hear of someone so negligent. Ranch owners must be prepared. This Padilla woman had no plan for these horses and besides that she sent them to their death pad locking the horses in. That’s just torturous to horses locking them in. There is absolutely no reason for it whatsoever. If your worried your horse will be stolen then micro chip them. If your so poor that you have to pad lock horses in to collect board checks then don’t board horses!!! Please write letters to the district attorney about this! If more people continue to speak about this it will not be forgotten. This woman deserves to be held accountable on behalf of these horses lives that were lost! The horses now are gone and there is nothing we can do to save them. But there is now something we can do to hold these people accountable for animal cruelty. Unfortunately many people do not have the knowledge or the heart to care for animals properly and they still have them anyway. This ranch owner must never be allowed boarders again. It is just disgusting to hear these horses we’re pad locked in. It is animal cruelty. The ranch owners must be prosecuted for this and I hope animal control continues to investigate. The story is full of holes that do not make sense. The fire broke out at 3am but animal control gets the call at 8:45. There was time to do something! She trapped them. Everyone must speak up and rise against this so something like this will NEVER happen again. It’s just sickening. Thank you to animal control for coming out with the facts and making a statement. And for risking your lives to save these poor horses. Horrified by this. Terrible things happen when people are just stupid. And the animals are just innocent. They just wanted to survive and they never had a chance. Heartbreaking

  28. Stacy says:

    This is horrendous! Never ever padlock any animal in. If I had to board my horses out and felt like I had to lock them in for safety or theft reasons..then I would know it was the wrong place for them to be…period! This is so heart breaking

  29. I can’t even bare to read this heartbreaking story

  30. Susan Johnston says:

    I would like to know why the ranch manager or owner was not criminally charged for having those horses lovked in their stall with padlocks? This is totally uncalled for and if I was one an owner of one of the dead horses locked in a stall, I would be pushing for an arrest!

  31. Mary kay says:

    Any charges against the despicable owners who locked those poor animals in? They should receive something, especially since they went on the news to say their friend saved their personal horses – so were they not locked in their stalls? How was the friend able to save their horses and no others!? There is something fishy here. Investigate!

  32. Katie Franklin says:

    I’m curious if there’s going to be any legal action taken against the owner of these horses for padlocking the stalls ?

  33. Laurie Chamberlain says:

    1.these fires are unprecedented. 2. if u have a theft danger someone should be there 24-7, not lock horses in. so everyone wake up — time to rethink everything before it gets worse. insurance coverage will disappear. big lifestyle changes. been there.

  34. Margie Beeson says:

    I am a little confused with this posting? The fire called the Creek Fire did not start on Monday, it started on Tuesday at approximately 3:45am Tuesday morning. The ranch owners in question were awoken by police and fire officials and told leave. They were prevented from aiding equines on threat of arrest. I agree locks should not be on stalls but not all stalls were locked there was just no time to rescue animals. Please research some of these facts and update your posting.

  35. Elizabeth says:

    The owner needs to be charged with Animal cruelty. Owner responsible and there should NOT if been padlocks. Those horses SUFFERED a horrible death and the Officers risked their lives to attempt to save them. More could of been saved if they hadn’t had to take time to cut locks

  36. Tlynnah smyth says:

    So horrible to see such a site.

  37. Cheryl seltzer says:

    Animal did their best to help the horses. The blame is on the property owner for not asking for help earlier to save the horses. Animal cruelty charges should be issued to show as a example you never sit 3 hours and then call for help because you needed sleep.

  38. Cheryl seltzer says:

    The owner of Padilla Ranch should be used as a example for animal cruelty. They had 3 hours to ask for help to evacuate the horses instead they wanted to sleep. Animal control did their best with little time to help these horses who died the worst death ever. My sister who has a horse trailer heard about the fire and drove instantly to help with evacuating horses. Just a call for help anytime within the 3 hours since the fire started would have changed it from animal rescue to dead horses in locked stalls. Simple as that

  39. Catrina Siboloski says:

    It’s been NO SECRET theses fires have been on going & getting closer & closer. There’s absolutely NO REASON not to have as many precautions in place as possible. So the Cons running that boarding facility in which they turned into a horrific slaughter house, they darn well knew they shoulda A) been doing a watch on the barn & premises, B) had owners on standby to help temporarily move/remove their horses, C) MOST OF ALL HAD PADLOCKS OFF THE STALLS & at least let the horses be READY to be received by assisting helpers, rescue workers, aides etc!!!

    But since they chose not to & Owners chose not to step in & put a foot up these Cons butts they, I’m sorry are just as guilty & to blame…they KNEW ABOUT THE LOCKS. And don’t give me about the money behind angle, you’d better believe even if I’d been financially behind on board or whatever I would have been hauled away in cuffs before I’d dare let someone harm my animal(s)!!!

  40. Kelly Woods says:

    The stalls were padlocked??? That’s HORRIBLE. I’ve had horses at a few barns in my life and never did you padlock for this EXACT REASON.

  41. SCVTeam says:

    Focus on something more important like impeaching this scum of a president.

  42. Cathy says:

    NEVER PADLOCK ANY ANIMAL IN ENCLOSED AREA. It is your duty to protect them!!!! Should never have animals if you don’t consider their lives as valuable as humans… this happened also in the flooding areas we had in our country….They found dogs chained up and roped up at people’s houses sitting in water up to their necks.. inhumane! Dispicable

  43. Rhemy says:

    Seriously???!!! We are here talking about the outrageous act of a boarding facility allowing countless horses to burn to death because they felt it was okay to lock horses in their corrals and go go to sleep rather than monitor the situation and you put a comment in about impeaching the President?

  44. Tammy Wood says:

    Thank you firefighters for doing your best God bless you. Prayers go out to those who lost their pets in this place that was padlocked I just don’t understand

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