In the midst of seemingly incessant bad news came this uplifting story from Cave Creek in Arizona.
In late May, a wild fire raced across the desert and encroached on the stalls of reiner Pedro Baiao, who was feeling helpless as he tried to figure out how to rescue some 30 horses.
“When we heard about the fire … I don’t know how many miles away and then 10 minutes later it was just right there,” Baiao said. “I thought to myself, ‘what am I going to do?’”
Complicating matters was the fact that his friends were all at the Mother’s Day Slide in nearby Scottsdale for the Derby finals, but he called one anyway.
Martin Muehlstaetter left what he was doing at the show and hurried over with his trailer. In 20 minutes, eight or nine trailers were in his yard.
It was like knocking over a line of dominoes. Among the willing were Muehlstaetter, Brent Naylor, Crystal McNutt and Bob and Dana Avila.
Even a Maricopa County sheriff’s deputy, a big, broad man who at first resisted the caravan entreaties to enter the area, was helping usher horses into trailers.
“He was grabbing and leading them out,” said Dana Avila, who with her husband Bob were part of the rescue team. “He’s a great, big stout guy. He’s got a 2-year-old stud and he’s jogging next to him and I said, ‘you OK with him. He said, ‘Yeah, I got him.’ ‘Are you sure?’ He said, ‘yeah, why?’ ‘You realize that’s a stud.’ ‘What’s that mean?’ ‘It means give him to me.’ He went, ‘oh, OK.’”
It was an incident they all could laugh about because the mission was accomplished.
With the help from his friends, Baiao got 30 horses evacuated in less than 30 minutes.
“I don’t think it would have worked as great as it did if I had planned it,” said a relieved Baiao, a Brazilian native.
The ranch and structures on it ultimately were spared as first responders got a handle on the blaze before it could do any further damage.
Baiao was actually planning to move to Scottsdale in the middle of the June, next door to the Avilas, who have been there and done that with wild fires. They faced the same situation as Baiao in southern California.
“There’s nothing scarier,” Dana Avila said. “Horse people are great. Pedro made one phone call and had eight trailers in his yard in 20 minutes. That’s pretty cool. We all compete and all do our own thing and worry aobut our own deal, but when somebody is down everybody jumps in and helps. It’s very endearing to me and tells kind of the magnitude of the people we deal with.
“It’s what you do when horses need help.”
Avila said the lesson they learned was to be decisive about evacuating. It’s a lot easier to get out even if it turns out you didn’t need to than to go back in when the situation has turned dire.
“If you even think you’ve got to get out, get out,” she said.
The fire in Arizona was contained at about 1,000 acres, officials said, according to news reports. Twenty structures were destroyed, including eight homes, and it caused the evacuation of about 500 people. Officials believe it was human caused.
“Without them, who knows what would have happened,” Baiao said. “The place did not burn, but it would have been impossible” to get the horses out by himself.
“Luckily, I got pretty good help.”
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