Volunteer cowboys ride their horses to the fire area to save horses and other animals.


PARADISE: Jerry Kirk and a few other cowboys were standing in the parking lot of a burned-down Safeway mall, using their mobile phones to map out a rescue route.

The gang arrived at a house in Paradise, where a lady said she had to escape without her eight horses, while towing four horse trailers. Kirk had just travelled a few kilometres when the caravan was seen by a lady from a different rescue organisation. A German Shepherd with severely burnt feet was discovered by her next to fallen power wires on Clark Road. Was there room for the puppy, she asked.

Kirk, a resident of Cottonwood in Shasta County, has been saving animals ever since he was sent to Redding to assist after the Carr Fire. Soon after he posted a message on Facebook, locals begged for assistance in locating their pets in places where the general population was unable to return.

Kirk was given permission to get past the barriers in Paradise on Saturday after collaborating with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Residents in Butte County had called him more than 500 times, pleading for assistance in rescuing dogs, cats, llamas, goats, and horses. There wouldn’t be many that he could reach.

Kirk said, “People had to leave their animals because the fire spread so quickly.”
Kirk and his colleagues made their way to the location where the owner had to give over her horses. As they got closer to the land they were searching for, they drove past the burned-out remnants of house after house, not knowing what to expect.

The woman’s home was completely destroyed. But there, clustered together, were the eight horses on what had formerly been the front lawn. Two need veterinarian attention because to burns. To retrieve the lost herd, the gang cautiously loaded the terrified and slightly irascible horses and drove towards Oroville through the remote and smokey Clark Road. As night fell, they drove by abandoned, blacked-out, smash-and-run vehicles.

Kirk finds a happy ending, and this was one of them. All too often, he breaks the devastating news of family pets and other animal friends that perished in the fire. Even thinking about those times brings him to tears.


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