About 100 volunteers made their way up the windy and narrow road to Oak Canyon Equestrian Center on Sunday to assist with the cleanup of a fire that took the lives of two beloved horses and caused significant damage to the ranch’s stables.
Friends, family, acquaintances and community members stomped through the rain-drenched mud as dust and debris filled the air — caused by the fire-scorched wood and metal being dismantled to regain the stables’ structural integrity — all in an effort to help a neighbor in need after a tragedy.
Carrie Treadway, who co-owns Oak Canyon with her mother, said she was overwhelmed by the entire experience.
“I grew up on the farm, so it’s really hard to walk down it and see it every day,” said Treadway through tears, referring to the damaged stables. “I just want it gone, it’s a mess, and then we can start to rebuild. Every day when I’ve been driving up here, I have to pull over and cry for like 20 minutes.”
Volunteers helped haul the twisted metal cut away from the structures that once held up the center of the stable and cleared debris so that crews could place up support beams to prevent a collapse.
One of these volunteers was Jack Elliot, a Santa Clarita resident whose girlfriend takes riding lessons at Oak Canyon. Elliot said when he heard there was a way he could help, he and his girlfriend jumped at the opportunity.
“I guess today is the big cleanup day because it needs a lot of people to take care of everything. There’s so much damage,” said Elliot. “ It’s very touching, because [Treadway] will do anything for anybody and now finally, it’s a chance for everybody to give back to her because she’s devastated from this and everybody knows that she’s already given 1,000% to everybody that comes here — whether it’s just hanging out or taking lessons. She’s just a giving person and it’s nice to help her out for once.”
On Tuesday, the Los Angeles County Fire Department received a call for a structure fire at Oakwood Canyon, located on the 23000 block of Wildwood Canyon Road in Newhall, at approximately 4:41 a.m., according to Kaitlyn Aldana, spokeswoman for the Fire Department.
The owners of the property, and others, were trying to get the horses to safety and extinguish the fire as best as they could.
Two of Treadway’s neighbors, Sean and Jackie Lambert, were driving down their driveway when they spotted the blaze and raced to the farm to alert the family.
“We saw the barn was on fire, and after we woke up the family that owns the barn, we went and started getting horses out of there,” Sean said. “Unfortunately, there were two that we couldn’t get to in time.”
The horses were nervous as the fire spread onto the roof and around the barn, burning rubber mats on the outside stalls, he added. Luckily, the roof wasn’t in danger of caving in at the time.
“I was busy trying to get horses out of the barn, but because of the fire some of the horses stuck their heads out the windows for fresh air,” Lambert said. “My wife is the one that undid all the stalls. The horses wouldn’t leave the stalls by themselves and we actually had to put ropes around them and actually pull them out.”
The family saved horses, too, Lambert said, and were able to gather some of them in a specific area, so the horses wouldn’t run off. Lambert said they released between eight to 12 horses, but couldn’t confirm how many horses were in the barn because everything happened so fast.
“Whoever owns those two horses, I’m sure those people are hurting really bad today,” Lambert said. “I just wish we could have saved them all.”
Treadway said her family had been on the property for 30 years and were able to gain full, independent ownership of it 12 years ago. When friends heard what had happened, Treadway said they drove and flew “from all over” to help repair the damage.
“I’m pretty overwhelmed, extremely overwhelmed, grateful my friends flew out from all over and surprised me,” said Treadway. “From Arizona, they drove up from Orange County, drove down from central California and we didn’t even ask, they just showed up. So, it’s pretty amazing. “
Ten stalls were lost, the entire building was structurally damaged, thousands of dollars’ worth of tack was lost and the insurance situation is uncertain. Treadway is hoping insurance can cover most of it, but said it’s mostly going to be an uphill battle and could take months, if not years.
Treadway was told by investigators that the fire was caused by a mini-fridge — used to hold ice for the horse’s hooves after riding — that had apparently surged following exposure to water caused by the recent rainstorms.
“It was a freak accident. I think the excessive amount of rain had something to do with it, is what the initial investigation says… it’s just a tragic event, but I don’t know how that’s all gonna play out, insurance-wise,” said Treadway.
Oak Canyon set up a GoFundMe page on Thursday with a $100,000 goal. In only three hours, $5,370 was raised. At the time of this publication, that number had gone up to nearly $30,000
“This is a barn family and a community stricken by the most unimaginable tragedy that now needs to rebuild, recover and remember those who were lost,” wrote the GoFundMe. “We appreciate any help that you can give us so that Oak Canyon can continue to be a welcoming place where riders of any age and ability can fulfill their equestrian dreams, and a safe home for the horses that we all love and nurture.”
All donations are said to be going toward repairing the fire damage done to the barn’s structure, paying for the veterinarian bills for the injured horses, buying new tack and stable supplies and “doing what (they) can” to help the owners of Malone and Rocky — the horses killed in the fire — heal.
Those wishing to donate to Oak Canyon Equestrian can do so at, www.gofundme.com/f/oakcanyonfire.