I've had lots of questions posed through the comments on this blog and on Facebook. I'll try to answer them here.
1. Lori asked if we bring the horses into the barn when the smoke is bad. Our barn, like pretty much every barn in the Western US, has an open design. It is designed to promote the flow of air -- which keeps it cool in the summer -- so there is as much smoke in the barn as there is outside. Unfortunately, there is no place to put the horses that is smoke free. Fortunately, they don't get silly in their pastures -- they eat, they poop, they walk slowly from their hay to the water trough to their napping spots under the trees.
2. Southern California has been getting a lot of rain. The El Nino effect seems to be starting already. Unfortunately for us, El Nino influences rainfall in the southern end of the State but not much at all in Northern California. Up here, we rely on cold storms from Alaska that bring snow to the Sierras and build our snow pack. Last year, our snow pack was at a 500 year low. We need a very cold and wet winter. There is a storm moving across the top of the State that is cold but it is not bringing measurable moisture this far down. The Valley fire (the hot, fast one that has destroyed 400 homes) may get some rain since it is north of Napa Valley -- which is north of San Francisco. The Butte fire will not see any rain. It is south of us -- probably roughly even with San Francisco but on the eastern side of the State, in the Sierra Nevada foothills (also named the Motherlode because of the gold found there in the Gold Rush). We are also in the Motherlode, but a bit further north. We are not expecting to get measurable rain. Although the cooler temperatures and increased humidity are welcome; the increased winds that come with a storm are of great concern to the fire crews.
3. Tails from Provence asked if we have an evacuation plan. She assumed that we do. She assumed correctly. We are often questioned about why we have a four horse trailer but only trailer one or two horses at any given time to clinics, lessons, or trail rides. We have a large trailer because it is part of our evacuation plan. We never wanted to be in the position of deciding which horse(s) get left behind -- and we always kept our herd at four, or fewer, horses. With the addition of Pistol, a wonderful gift from our friend Buffy, we now how five horses. We've talked about which horse would be left behind if we didn't have time to make two trips. It would be either Mufasa or Jackson -- and it would break our hearts to leave either. They are both young-ish, but neither is (or ever will be) rideable. They are retirees. We would put the horse in our front pasture which is huge, with no trees, and the grass nibbled to the ground. There is nothing to burn in that pasture -- except the fence. Jackson would be less likely to panic than Mufasa (we would leave the goats and donkeys there as well so he wouldn't be alone) so I think his chances of survival would be better. Jackson would also be easier for someone to catch if he got loose and ran. We would write our phone number on his body with a grease marker. No halter -- the chances of it getting caught on something are too great. Hopefully, though, we would have enough time to move all the horses and the donkeys -- and the goats. Kersey and the barn cat, Passage, would go with us as well. In either scenario.
4. Whenever there is a fire in the area, Brett hooks up his truck to the trailer so we are ready to go. He even hooks it up if he goes out of town during hot weather. There are a number of places we could take the horses; including Sandy Savage's barn. I expect we would take them to the fairgrounds because that is close and would hopefully afford us the opportunity of going back and getting the rest of the animals. We would not wait until the last minute. Not with the animals.
5. The Butte fire (the one closest to us) is now 37% contained. It has burned 71,000 acres and destroyed 166 residences plus 116 barns and other outbuildings. There are 12 damaged residences. Looters have arrived; and scammers pretending to be contractors. In one neighborhood, the residents blocked the road, carrying rifles and holding a sign that says: "You loot, we shoot." I'm not a gun advocate but I did enjoy that newsclip.
6. The closest fire station is a mile and a half away, at the end of our road, and that brings us a measure of comfort.