On Sunday, October 21, 2007 The Gentle Barn, located in Canyon Country, was closed to the public due to high winds. They were notified about a brush fire that was approximately five miles away, at noon. The smoke kept getting thicker and they became nervous that it might be spreading in their direction so they climbed the mountain behind the facility to see what was going on. To their horror they saw huge red flames racing toward them. It was their worst nightmares come true. They immediately began the evacuation process, trying to get their family and 60 rescued animals out before it was too late.
The closest to the fire was The Gentle Barn office and their house including cats, parrots, and dogs who were loaded into crates and into cars. The next task was to evacuate the upper barnyard that housed: farm pigs, pot belly pigs, goats, sheep, chickens and their beloved turkey, Big Bird. This was the most tedious of tasks because of the high winds blowing dust and thick black smoke directly at them and the animals.
The animals were all very scared so instead of cooperating with the rescuers, their natural instinct to escape was working against them, and with the blaze all around there was no time to ease their fears. People started to arrive with trailers and willing hands to help; luckily they were able to evacuate the entire upper barnyard before it was ablaze, but they still had to get the horses and cows out.
As the flames consumed the upper part of their six-acre property and raced towards them, The Gentle Barn staff and volunteers loaded eight of their horses in the remaining trailer. Their was no more room for their PMU Draft horses “Zoe” and “Lazar” and their 1,800-pound blind steer “Vegan.”
The fire was now upon them, so with little else to do they put halters on the remaining animals and began running them down the then very busy Sierra Highway trying to find help. An extremely kind family and Gentle Barn supporter from nearby, who had two horse trailers, heard about the fires and got to The Gentle Barn as soon as possible, didn’t ask any questions but rather began loading the horses and the remaining cow and got them to safety.
As the last animal was rescued from the blaze and the choking smoke, the only thought Ellie Laks, the founder of The Gentle Barn, had when she turned around and saw her house engulfed in flames was “Thank God our family and our animals are safe, that is all that really matters.” Miraculously, their facility did not burn down, due to the heroic efforts of the firefighters who got their just in the nick of time and were able to save their house, just as the roof ignited. “They were like super heroes; they went right up between the huge flames and the house. It was just amazing!”
“We feel so grateful to the firefighters; we have decided to throw a party for them and thank them at The Gentle Barn,” continues Laks. “We invite you to join us on December 16 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. for our first annual winter wonderland and fundraiser to help us recover from the fire and wind storms. We will be dedicating a new cow pasture in honor of all of our local firefighter heroes of Battalion 6, who will be there. We’ll have real snow for sledding and making snow people, fabulous holiday gifts on our silent auction table, food from local venders (who will be there to serve their own food) and you can take pictures with “Buddha,” our Santa Cow, spin a dreidel with “Josh,” the sheep and spend lots of time with all our rescued animals.”
The Gentle Barn Foundation is home to sixty animals rescued from abuse. The Gentle Barn hosts abused children, kids recovering from substance abuse, foster kids and special needs children. Through the interaction with animals the kids learn forgiveness, courage, strength, leadership skills, trust, and kindness. The healing that takes place when the kids get together with the animals is miraculous.
The Gentle Barn thrives with your support, so visit them on December 16th and every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. or make a donation online at www.gentlebarn.org.
The Gentle Barn is located at 15825 Sierra Highway, Santa Clarita, 91390. For more information, please call 661-252-2440.
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