Equestrian facility shelters evacuated animals, people from wildfires
With wildfires raging throughout the state and thousands of people evacuating their homes, many rural Oregonians are searching for places to house their livestock.
Anecdotal stories on social media from residents of Chehalem Mountain — which continues to burn due to the Chehalem-Bald Peak fire — describe harrowing moments of loading up horses and other livestock into trailers as the flames closed in. Multiple barns have burned to the ground on the mountain since residents first evacuated.
A facility near Newberg is stepping up to help board and care for those animals during this time of crisis. DevonWood Equestrian Centre on Highway 99W east of Newberg is at full capacity with evacuated animals, housing a large number of mostly horses along with llamas, alpacas, goats, chickens and a hog.
Owner Noah Rattner said he and his partners in the community felt compelled to act with so much space for animals on the property going otherwise unused.
"Things are going well right now," said Rattner, who estimated that more than 260 animals were at his facility, on Friday. "We have reached the point where we are at full occupancy and can't take any more evacuees, so for the most part it's like having a hotel where all your guests have checked in. At this point, we've pivoted our resources and efforts into the community while helping care for the animals staying in our facility.
"All of our stalls are full right now, and these are stalls that we use for all kinds of equestrian events throughout the year. Somewhat serendipitously, we haven't had any events in recent months due to COVID, so all of our stalls were just sitting here, waiting. They were all clean and ready to go to house animals from the beginning of all this."
The facility has become a triage point of sorts for people with and without animals evacuating, and as the situation has evolved, community partners have joined with DevonWood to help care for both animals and people.
The stalls are filled with about 90% horses along with the aforementioned farm animals, who Rattner said are all cohabiting fine. Herd animals like the llamas are even purring with glee, he said.
Wilco Farm Store in Newberg has donated bedding, feed and water for the animals. Gallops Saddlery in Tigard has donated animal equipment and resources. The Newberg-based Ruddick-Wood restaurant and Coffee Cat Coffeehouse, along with Grand Central Baking Co., have donated food, coffee and other resources to the humans who have evacuated.
The effort by the community to band together during the wildfires and care for one another, Rattner said, has been inspiring. People have come from around the state to house their animals, from as far as Eugene and the Portland area and as close as Chehalem Mountain.
"The facility has really strong security and control systems so we can protect the people who are on site and their animals, so that's been our biggest focus along with helping out as many people as we can from around the state," Rattner said. "We have RV space and extra spaces where some people have evacuated and are staying now, and our facility is filled with animals. We're seeing people band together and care for each other, which is great to see.
"These folks have their animals secure and safe, and they're going back out into the community with horse trailers and trucks and helping others out. The amount of community integration and support has been amazing."
DevonWood is working on setting up a web page where people can donate to the relief efforts from the wildfires. More information will be posted on the business's Facebook page in the coming days.
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