SYLMAR, Calif. -- Amid the charred landscape of Little Tujunga Canyon Road in Sylmar on Wednesday stood the remains of Rancho Padilla and the carcasses of nearly 30 horses who died in the fast-moving Creek fire.
The Padilla family was there Wednesday morning, surveying the smoldering ranch their father built more than 20 years ago. They somberly counted up the dead horses, whose charred bodies lined dozens of stalls.
The family, who lives up the hill from the ranch, had awakened Tuesday to flames. One fire truck came and told them to leave.
"All I could think about was the horses, the horses, the horses. And they were like, 'Get out, get out, get out,'" said Patricia Padilla, whose family owns the ranch. "The structures can get rebuilt, but the lives of the horses can't. ... That's my biggest heartbreak."
The ranch, which boards horses, had more than 60 housed there, said Virginia Padilla, Patricia's older sister. They put the count of dead horses at 29.
The family was familiar with each owner and would be calling them throughout the day to deliver the grim news and offer condolences.
On Wednesday morning, the smell of fire hung in the air and mixed with the odor of burned carcasses. Blackened horseshoes and traces of blood littered the stalls as a heavy silence blanketed the ranch. The stillness was broken only occasionally by the whinnies of a surviving horse and the crowing of a rooster.
Shelby Hope brought Oscar Martinez, a horse owner, and others up Wednesday morning to see whether the horses had survived and how she could help. She's been coming to the ranch for about five years, to attend rodeos and spend time with friends.
"It hurts a lot because these horses are family," Hope said as she stood near the bodies. "They're not just horses -- they're horses that we know, that we've become close to."
"Do you remember the white horse we used to ride?" Martinez asked Hope, pointing out the charred remains of one animal.