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The Comeback Trail

Rebuilding areas charred by December wildfires is under way

- February 1st, 2018 - General News

SUNLAND — The trauma of December’s wildfires — and subsequent mudslides a month later in some areas — is far from forgotten in communities from San Diego County to Central California, and in many places, victim needs still outstrip supplies. But signs of recovery are appearing, slowly.

While the toll of the terrible trio — the Lilac Fire in Bonsall, Creek Fire in Los Angeles and Thomas Fire in Ventura County –is still being calculated, groups are forming both formally and informally to mutually support and educate neighbors in respective communities.

Deer Springs Equestrian in San Marcos, a few miles due south of the Lilac Fire, conducted a two-hour equine microchip clinic on Jan. 13, where Dr. Emily Sandler of Pacific Coast Equine Veterinary Services micro-chipped and registered horses.

The local advocacy group, the Twin Oaks Valley Equestrian Association, sent out a comprehensive self-evacuation guide that could be a difference-maker in preparation for a future event. The guide is rooted in the Cal Fire Volunteers in Prevention campaign after the June 2008 Lightning Strike Fires in Tehama County. (A link to this guide is at the end of this article).

In the area struck by the Creek Fire in Los Angeles, equestrians are working together to educate, plan and communicate using lessons learned from the Dec. 6 firestorm, which devastated longtime equestrian centerpieces in their community like Middle Ranch and Gibson Ranch.

At Gibson Ranch, volunteers have been working nearly two months, lending skills and effort toward the vision of returning the operation to normal.
One of those volunteers is Ann Champion of Los Angeles. Champion, an art director and production designer for television and motion pictures, boarded her Saddlebred at Gibson Ranch until it died 11 years ago.

“I just could not NOT come back and help, once this happened,” said Champion, who is comfortable grinding away nubs of steel from dozens of pipe corrals, a task required after deformed, melted metal mesh had to be snipped away and removed.

“Each day, I try to finish what I have to do so I can come here and get a couple hours of grinding in. That’s about all I’m good for, and then my hands start to hurt. This was my home away from home before my horse died 11 years ago — now, it is again.”

Champion is one of many hands-on volunteers at Gibson Ranch.

“This is therapeutic,” she said. “It’s like working with horses– it keeps you totally in the moment, and you can’t think about anything else. And, I’m also helping a good friend.”

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