LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The wildfire that forced celebrities and thousands of others to flee some of the poshest neighborhoods in Los Angeles this week also forced a hasty roundup of scores of horses in the area.
One of them was Prince Toby, a 16-year-old horse who belongs to the Hammarberg family of the upscale Pacific Palisades neighborhood.
When the fire broke out in the early hours of Monday, the Hammarbergs evacuated to a hotel. Animal rescue authorities under a police escort went to get Toby at his home in a nearby canyon.
Prince Toby is now being sheltered at the Hansen Dam Horse Park stables in the nearby San Fernando Valley, along with 125 other horses evacuated from the fires.
Louise Hammarberg, a mother of two who designs posters and campaigns for Hollywood movies, said Prince Toby, usually a mellow horse, “is a little antsy.”
“He is probably not loving it and missing his friends. They are used to being together and here he is in a strange place with strange horses,” Hammarberg, a Swedish national who has been living in Los Angeles since she was 17, said after visiting her horse.
Prince Toby was at a stable in the canyon when the Getty fire ignited on Monday morning near the Getty Center museum, forcing evacuations in Brentwood, Pacific Palisades and other neighborhoods.
“We weren’t allowed up in the canyon, but he was taken out of there by a hauler and a police escort, because people weren’t allowed, so I guess that is why they needed the police to take them out,” Hammarberg said.
Workers from Los Angeles’ Animal Services Department tending to the animals at the Hansen Dam stables said they would welcome any horse that needs shelter for as long as necessary.
“We are going to keep this place open if we need, if anybody needs this space. The stalls are here for these horses that are being evacuated,” said Lucy Ruiz, an animal technician at the Animal Services Department.
Authorities have had a lot of practice evacuating horses, as wildfires become more frequent and intense, which the state says is largely a function of climate change. More than 200 horses were hauled to safety in the Saddleridge Fire near the San Fernando Valley earlier this month.
One of the area’s worst fires, the December 2017 Thomas fire, which swept through Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, killed at least 54 horses, authorities said.
Southern California is one of the largest horse-racing centers in the United States, with its sunny climate allowing horses to run year-round. Moreover, the canyons and foothills are an inviting terrain for recreational riders.
The Hammarberg and thousands of other families evacuated from the Getty fire still do not know when they will be going home.
“We don’t know and that is the hard part. Because if you know you are going to be gone for a week or for a day, you plan accordingly. ... He (Prince Toby) is ready to go back too, I think,” she said.
Reporting by Omar Younis; Writing by Bill Tarrant; Editing by Peter Cooney