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Horses, Alpacas And Emus Evacuated As River Fire Burns Near Salinas

Erika Mahoney
Over 40 horses from the Indian Springs Equestrian Center, located off River Road, have been moved to safer locations. Pictured here is Henry.

The River Fire, south of Salinas, is 10 percent contained and has burned 2,800 acres. Around 1,500 structures are threatened and five have been damaged. Not only are people evacuating, so are their animals.

It’s been a busy 48 hours for the SPCA for Monterey County.

“We’ve been receiving calls, pretty constantly, from people asking for information or asking for assistance. Our team is out right now on an animal rescue for some larger animals,” Beth Brookhouser, Vice President of Marketing and Communications, said. 

The SPCA, the local, donor-supported humane society, is sheltering 11 dogs, 13 cats and 3 birds evacuated from the fire. The team has also been out rescuing horses, alpacas and emus.  

“We are always here for people and animals when they need us most. And right now is definitely one of those times,” Brookhouser said. “Please don’t hesitate to call us.”


SPCA for Monterey County: 831-264-5455

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Brookhouser describes the area impacted as "home to a lot of animal lovers." She can see the River Fire from her home along Highway 68.

Credit Erika Mahoney
Beth Brookhouser with SPCA for Monterey County watches the River Fire from her neighborhood along Highway 68.

“From our neighborhood, which is pretty far away from the fire, we've seen very large, black plumes," she said. "The sun turned red."

The fire began at Pine Canyon Road and River Road around 3 a.m. Sunday as a result of lightning strikes. 

The fire spread quickly, forcing mandatory evacuations on Indian Canyon Road, Parker Road, Laurel Lane and Trimble Hill Lane. Evacuation advisories are in place for Indian Canyon, Mt. Toro Access Road and San Benancio Road from Troy Lane to Corral de Tierra, including Corral del Cielo Road, Lucie Lane and Covie Lane.

“A mandatory evacuation means they need to get out and they need to let us do our part and extinguish this fire,” Toni Davis with Cal Fire said.

Cal Fire has closed Toro Park on Highway 68 to operate a command center. A center for evacuees is operating at Toro Park School, 22500 Portola Drive, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. through Friday. More than 500 personnel are fighting the fire. Four have suffered heat-related injuries. 


Credit Erika Mahoney
Toro County Park is now a command center for the River Fire.

If you receive an evacuation advisory, Davis said, get ready to leave. She recommends grabbing clothes that will last you a few days, medications, driver’s license, and the pets you love.

On Sunday evening, Lori Tuttle made the call to evacuate dozens of horses out of the Indian Springs Equestrian Center on River Road. That’s where she runs Hope, Horses and Kids, a nonprofit equine-assisted learning program. People also board their horses at the center.

“We have 44 horses and watched the fire go up and down yesterday, trying to make a decision as to whether or not we should stay or we should leave,” Tuttle said. 

Transporting horses is no easy task. 

“We had horses out in our pasture that hadn't been handled in a while. You know, they're just retired horses. I was worried we weren't gonna be able to catch them.”


All 44 horses are safe now. Some are at the Marina Equestrian Center and some are at the Salinas Rodeo grounds.



Credit Erika Mahoney
Lori Tuttle stands near Reyna at the Salinas Rodeo Grounds, which is taking evacuated horses in. Tuttle transported 44 horses Sunday night with help from the community.

“We put a call out on Facebook that we needed trailers, horse trailers, to help us evacuate. And the response was overwhelming. It was kind of surreal,” Tuttle said.

Erika joined KAZU in 2016. Her roots in radio began at an early age working for the independent community radio station in her hometown of Boulder, Colorado. After graduating from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University in 2012, Erika spent four years working as a television reporter. She’s very happy to be back in public radio and loves living in the Monterey Bay Area.