On July 12, lightning started a wildfire in Nespelem, Washington, now known as the Chuweah Creek Fire. The flames quickly spread across tribal lands due to the heat wave, drought conditions, and gusty winds.
As the flames destroyed homes and thousands of acres of grazing pastures and trees, horses ran for their lives.
Some were spotted running down the road and others were seen on charred hillsides.
Ricky Gabriel, a member of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, was headed to work when he spotted horses running down a major highway trying to outrun the fire. He used his truck “black horse” to safely corral the horses into the rodeo grounds.
He told KREM 2 News, “We help each other around here.”
People near and far assisted in saving a group of burned mares and foals. The horses were in the path of the fire and unable to escape. Sadly, some were so badly burned that the only option was euthanasia. The surviving horses were transported to a ranch a couple of hours away and are receiving all the necessary care.
The range horses, which are not used to being handled, are being treated with cold baths, burn cream, and antibiotics. They are reportedly warming up to the caretakers.
A black and white mare with badly burned legs was named Rosey and is slowly improving. Summer Huckaby, owner of the ranch, regularly posts updates on Facebook about the rescued horses.
She is optimistic that “all have a great chance of recovery over time” after a visit from the vet. While it will be a long road to recovery, it will be possible thanks to generous donors, volunteers, and a local rescue group called Okandogs.
The rescue group has donated hundreds of bales of hay and offered to cover the vet and feed costs until the horses recover. They also sent 900 pounds of food for cats and dogs impacted by the wildfire.
But more horses are in need of help.
Tiffany Wiebe Wisdom, one of the rescuers involved in saving the injured mares, wants to make sure the wild horses are not forgotten. The fire has already burned over 35,000 acres, including grazing areas, so wild horses are in need of hay as well.
She made a plea on Facebook for a semi load of hay and said, “I just feel like feral horses have no one…I’m not gonna stop trying to find a solution.”
Okandogs is accepting donations to help cover the ongoing vet and feed costs.
The fire is only 35% contained as of Monday, according to the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center.