August 12 we got the call that we’ll never forget– the Soda Fire bore down on a herd of 21 of our horses that were summering on a leased ranch. An eyewitness, the ranch owner, said that fire started and within 20 minutes had burned the entire 600 acre sage brush field where our horses are kept, then came off the mountain and into his homestead burning part of his corrals and machinery, barely sparing his house and barn. In less than 20 minutes, the fire moved a mile from where it started through the field where our horses were so there was no time to do anything but watch. They said all 21 horses were running in front of the flames then went out of sight behind flames much higher than the horses. Not being able to get away, the horses turned and ran straight back through the fire getting behind where it had already burned.
My two best bridle horses, Frosty and McRoanie were turned out while he was on the road, along with some student horses and yearlings, making up a total of 21 head. Most all had singed tails, manes, eyelashes, and hair inside their ears, but thankfully only minor injuries.
Two horses received second degree burns to their face and muzzle, eye lashes and inner ear hair burned to nothing, manes and tails burned half off. About half of the other horses were mature horses that had hair burned off their faces and ears with half of their manes and tails burned. The rest were yearlings that didn’t have near as much hair burn as the older horses.
Draw your own conclusion by the facts, but apparently two horses lead the rest of the horses, literally taking most the heat, to get the rest the horses to safety. Those two horses were Frosty and McRoanie who are referred to as my special forces horses.
After burning nearly 300,000 acres Idaho, the Soda Fire is now contained. Although official death loss on cattle isn’t in yet, it’s believed to add up to several hundred from numerous ranchers. The BLM has stated 27 wild horses were killed in the fire.
For whatever reason our horses were spared we are thankful. The skin is peeling off the more severe burned areas and their whiskers are growing daily. Even without eyelashes or manufactured protection, the eye condition on the burnt herd is fine. Frosty is the only one wearing a fly mask to protect an ulcer he got in his eye early on. A big thanks to Vetericyn for donating wound care spray to care for our horses.
This is not something we would wish to experience again but after ranching in this county for over 150 years and surviving many hardships, we know what nature or man is capable of and deal with it and move on. What doesn’t break you makes you stronger.
We are grateful for all the kind words, gestures, and offers people have made concerning our situation, but there are many people that have losses much greater than ours. There are ranchers that lost livestock and feed which they depend on for their livelihood.
We would like to direct anyone feeling the need to reach out and help the families to make contributions to the Owyhee Cattlemen’s Association. A fund has been set up at all US Bank branches. This will go directly to families with the greatest losses. You can click here to donate.