Ranch owners who were forced to abandon dozens of horses as wildfires swept their properties on Tuesday returned once the flames had passed to find almost all of the animals dead.
The Padilla Ranch was directly in the danger zone of Creek Fire, one of the largest out of five which are ravaging the region, in Sylmar.
At 3.43am on Tuesday, the ranch owners, who live up the hill on the dusty canyon road where it sits, awoke to flames and were forced to evacuate by firefighters who told them to leave without hesitation.
In the process, they had to leave behind the 60 horses they look after on behalf of their owners in the nearby stables. When they returned, they found 29 had died.
Their bleak return to the site and the devastating discovery of the animals’ carcasses were captured in harrowing photographs on Wednesday.
Ranch owner Patricia Padilla said she was reluctant to leave the animals but had no choice because her own life was in risk.
One of the 29 horses which perished as the Creek wildfire ravaged The Padilla Ranch near Sylmar in Southern California on Tuesday morning
Shelby Hope returns to the ranch on Wednesday morning to find 29 of the animals dead. The ranch owners live nearby and were forced to flee in the early hours of Tuesday morning with no time to go to the stables to free the horses
‘All I could think about was the horses, the horses, the horses.
It felt like you were in the middle of hell with everything burning around you
‘And [the firefighters] were like, “Get out, get out, get out.” The structures can get rebuilt, but the lives of the horses can’t. … That’s my biggest heartbreak,’ she told The Los Angeles Times on Wednesday.
Some of the horse’s owners tried to save them when they realized they were in danger.
They include Oscar Martinez who arrived at the ranch at 5am on Tuesday to find it entirely on fire. His horse was saved by a friend who was nearby and was able to get it out in time.
Virginia Padilla, another of the sisters who runs the ranch, said it was not the first time they had been at risk.
‘We’ve always had fires, and it’s always been one of those things like, “We’ll be OK,”. I guess it was just… we weren’t.’
A wildlife sanctuary nearby which houses tigers, lions and hyenas was able to evacuate its animals as the fire raged nearby.
‘It felt like you were in the middle of hell with everything burning around you,’ Martine Colette, owner of the Wildlife Waystation sanctuary, said.
The ranch’s owners, who live nearby, were woken by the flames at 3.43am on Tuesday. They were told by firefighters to get out of the area immediately, giving them no choice but to leave the horses in their stables
Virginia Padilla, who runs the ranch with her family, fought back tears on Wednesday as she returned to the site
Arturo Castaneda, one of the ranch hands, climbs into the stall of a dead horse to retrieve its shoes as others watch in sadness
Much of the 26-year-old property was also destroyed by the fire. Ranch hands Anthony Martin and Angel Flores are pictured surveying the damage on Wednesday
The horse’s iron shoes remained intact. Ranch hands began the painstaking task of recovering them on Wednesday
The ranch hands worked around the animal carcasses on Wednesday to douse the smoldering site with water
The ranch sat in the path of the Creek Fire near Sylmar. It is just one of five which continues to torture Southern California
The Thomas Fire in Ventura is by far the largest and has covered 96,000 acres.
Despite the efforts of more than 1,100 fire fighters, it is just 5% contained.
The Creek Fire, near Sylmar, has covered more than 12,605 acres.
It is 5% contained.
The Rye Fire
Near Santa Clarita, Rye has covered 7,000 acres. It is 15% contained.
The Skirball Fire, which is consuming Bel Air and threatening celebrity homes is one of the smallest. It has covered 475 acres.
It is uncontained.
The Little Mountain Fire
Near San Bernardino, the Little Mountain fire is the smallest at 260 acres.
As of Thursday morning, it was 100%, meaning it will not spread but it is still burning.
The Creek Fire started suddenly at around 4am on Tuesday and quickly grew in size.
It has already destroyed at least 30 homes on its own and torched more than 12,000 acres.
It is one of five that are still terrorizing the region.
On Thursday, there were fears that new fires would begin because of strong, overnight winds which fanned the existing flames.
Nearly 200,000 people have been evacuated from their homes and hundreds of schools in the area are closed.
Among the hundreds of thousands who have been forced to abandon their houses are some of the world’s biggest stars.
Hollywood actors, comedians and singers all took to social media to share how they were being caught up in the devastation.
Their houses are at risk of the Skirball fire which is considerably smaller. It has torched just under 500 acres of land but remains uncontained meaning it could continue to spread.
The Rye fire in Santa Clarita is one of the largest and has covered 7,000 acres.
Firefighters have been able to contain around 15 percent of it.
The most monstrous of the five individual fires is Thomas which has covered 96,000 acres and, as of Thursday morning, was just 5% contained.
Little Mountain Fire in San Bernardino is the smallest and covered 260 acres before it was entirely contained on Thursday morning.
Ventura: In Ventura on Thursday morning, fire fighters continued to battle the ongoing Thomas fire which has so far covered 96,000 acres. Two fire fighters are pictured extinguishing its flames along the 101 Highway
The 101 Highway in Ventura, California, remained closed on Thursday morning as wildfires ravaged the land surrounding it