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September 11 (Reuters) – When a wildfire began to spread out of control near her small ranch in Hemet, California on Monday, Debby Taylor had one major concern: how to protect her donkeys.

She wrote her phone number on their halters, in case she was forced to let them go. On Tuesday, however, the animals were on their way to a local thoroughbred horse farm, thanks to a network of local volunteers who have sprung into action in recent days to save hundreds of horses, goats and other animals from the raging fire in Fairview.

Taylor turned to Rena Salomon, a local woman whose nonprofit, Angel in a Hummer & HEART Foundation, transported some 800 animals from the danger zone for four grueling days with almost no rest.

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Solomon, 57, who has spent years doing disaster relief, decided to create an animal evacuation team after the 2017 Lilac Fire in Southern California killed dozens of horses.

Another local man, Ryan Gilmore, led a small team of volunteers to every major fire in California for years, helping to evacuate animals. He said the Fairview Fire, which had consumed more than 28,000 acres through Saturday in Riverside County, had threatened the most animals of any fire for several years.

Gilmore responded to nearly 700 calls for help this week.

“There wasn’t a single moment in the fire where I wasn’t talking on the phone and holding horses at the same time,” he said.

The area of ​​the fire, east of Los Angeles, includes numerous ranches and farms. The blaze, which started on Monday, was 40% contained on Saturday, after cooler temperatures and rainfall helped firefighters overnight. Read more

Some pet owners have vowed not to abandon their pets as the fire approaches. A man, says Solomon, refused to leave his goats behind; she and a team of volunteers managed to secure them by creating a human wall and grouping them in a makeshift corral.

“I knew if I didn’t get them all he could lose his life,” she said.

Salomon also helped evacuate 100 purebred Andalusian horses from Rancho Armendariz in Hemet, after the owner’s daughter, Jade Armendariz, appealed for help as the blazes advanced.

“For me, horses are my whole life,” Armendariz said. “It was moving so fast and covering so many acres. It was crazy. It was night and the whole sky was orange-red. It looked like the sun was still off.”

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Reporting by Joseph Axe; Editing by Daniel Wallis

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