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Nearly 30 horses found burned to death by Creek fire in Sylmar

Brittny Mejia, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

Martinez walked past each stall, tears in his eyes, as he identified each body. There was Selena, a baby horse, and her mother -- both badly burned.

Farther down, in Stall 40, Martinez had boarded his horse, Chikilin. He had gotten a call from a friend at 5 a.m. Tuesday saying that the ranch was burning.

By the time Martinez arrived, everything was on fire. Flames forced him to turn back, and he feared the worst -- that his horse had died. Then he saw his friend running, leading Chikilin away from the ranch. "I was crying," Martinez recounted Wednesday.

There were memories everywhere for the Padilla family. The now-burned gazebo is where Patricia Padilla had celebrated her 25th birthday this past Saturday. Farther up stood the arena where they would hold events, like the one planned for this Sunday for the Virgin de Guadalupe. They had invited horse owners to come for free food, a Mass and to ride.

The family has had the ranch for 26 years and has seen the mountains around them catch fire before.

"We've always had fires, and it's always been one of those things like, 'We'll be OK,'" Virginia said.

"I guess it was just," she trailed off, struggling to find the words. "We weren't."

One of Virginia's horses is in the hospital, and another, along with her sister's horse, Scar, are doing fine. Still, they felt for their boarders and the horses they'd lost. As Patricia saw the numerous horses that had perished, she remembered the boarders riding the animals and coming for relaxation.

Her father built the ranch mainly for his children because they do equestrian riding, Patricia said.


"Honestly, it feels like we lost a big part of our family," she said. "To see it all gone ... it's heartbreaking."

As the Padilla family took stock of the loss, Hope, 20, helped how she could, loading a trailer she'd brought with a horse and a donkey that had survived.

She planned to return to help take a pony out.

Running her hand, a horseshoe ring on her finger, through the pony's mane, she said, "You made it buddy."

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