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California woman rescues horses, yaks and cows from deadly wildfires

From Reuters - October 12, 2017

(Reuters) - The acrid smell of smoke borne on hurricane-strength winds greeted horse trainer Rebecca Cushman before dawn, her phone ringing repeatedly as people frantically sought help saving their animals from Californias deadly wildfires.

It was still dark on Monday morning when Cushman, 41, set out from her farm west of the conflagration, towing a four-horse trailer behind her white Dodge pickup truck.

She worked all day and into the night, loading four horses at a time from fire-ravaged farms and ranches in Sonoma and Napa counties, taking the animals back to her farm in West Petaluma before going out for more.

By Thursday, she had helped rescue 48 horses, several cows and even some yaks in the bucolic vineyard and farm country north of San Francisco hit by the states deadliest wildfires in nearly a century.

We have dogs, goats, guinea fowl, chickens, ducks, donkeys, miniature horses and horses at our farm right now, Cushman said on Thursday. I just finished helping load yaks and cows.

Firefighters began to gain ground on Thursday against blazes that have killed at least 31 people in Northern California and left hundreds missing amid mass evacuations in the heart of the states wine country. [nL2N1MO007][nL2N1MN1LB][nL2N1MN00H]

Animals are difficult to rescue in disasters like Californias fast-moving wildfires, as their owners must often choose between staying behind to care for them or fleeing to protect their own lives and those of their family members.

Some animals, including many rescued by Cushman, found refuge at privately owned farms outside the fire zone. Others were sheltered at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa.

The first calls there for help came in at about 12:30 a.m. on Monday, as winds of up to 75 miles per hour (121 km per hour) whipped fires throughout the state into dangerous conflagrations, said fairgrounds spokeswoman Leasha LaBruzzi.

POLICE ESCORT

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