Aera Energy employee Louise Lampara was one of thousands forced to evacuate their Ventura homes on the night of Monday, Dec. 4 as the Thomas Fire raced toward the city from nearby mountains and canyons.
Even as she and her roommate packed up their two dogs and suitcases and headed to the safety of the beach, Lampara thought anxiously about her two horses boarded at Cañada Larga Ranch a few miles away.
Area power and communications were knocked out, and she was certain she couldn’t load panicking horses into a trailer in smoke and darkness. Lampara could only hope that barn manager Kristi Troyna would find a way to save the 100 horses housed at the ranch.
Lampara’s prayers were answered. The next morning, she learned that Troyna, ranch hand Francisco “Pancho” Lomeli and others had kept the horses safe as the fire swept through the 3,500-acre property.
The blaze, however, had consumed the barn holding $4,000 worth of hay – a two-month supply of feed that had been delivered just before the fire. Tractors, hay trailers, equipment and tools were also destroyed. Highway 33 to Ojai, home to feed supplier Ventura Hay Company, was closed. How would the ranch feed to its horses?
Troyna, ranch employees and even boarders managed to cobble together enough hay pellets and supplements to feed the horses the morning after the fire. That evening and on Wednesday, Ventura Hay Company arrived with hay deliveries, despite the sporadic road closures.
But much more was needed. Lampara immediately reached out to Aera Human Resources in Bakersfield to ask for help. The department quickly contacted Aera employees who were horse owners to network a solution. Lampara also called Chris Collier, who had formed thomasfirehelp.com to help victims of the fire. He put Lampara in touch with Senator Henry Stern’s office, which in turn connected her with Pria Perea, owner of Diamond P Horse Training and Riding Instruction in Agoura Hills. Working with Social Compassion, Perea obtained a cash donation that allowed her to get 107 hay bales paid for and delivered to the hungry horses at Cañada Larga Ranch.
Since the fire, Cañada Larga is back on track and has even taken in other horses displaced by the fire.
“We had a fire plan, and it worked, despite having way less time than we thought we would,” notes Troyna. “The rest of our fortune through this ordeal has been because of all the real-life angels pitching in and making everything functional again.”
Perea and numerous volunteers continue to provide clean-up help, feed and supplies for horses in other fire-affected areas. Assistance has come from Peace 4 Animals, West Valley Feed in Agoura Hills, Topanga Feed and Seed and more.
“In the middle of such a terrible disaster, we have found the best in our fellow man,” Perea says.
As for Lampara, she counts herself fortunate that her home survived and that she could help Cañada Larga Ranch so quickly after the fire.
“I’m lucky enough through my work at Aera to know people at many organizations, people who were eager to help,” she says. “They’re the real heroes. I owe them a big karmic debt, and we will pay it forward.”