Evacuating A Ranch: How 15 Horses And Their People Escaped From Raging Fire

Aug 21, 2015

Methow Valley ranchers and their horses fled fire in Central Washington this week. They hauled the horses out in convoys of trailers. Now one herd of 15 horses has been evacuated to the a ranch outside of Wenatchee.

“There is a lot of adrenaline,” said Tulie Budishelich, who helped get them to the Appleatchee Ranch from Moccasin Lake Ranch near Winthrop. She hauled a large truck and trailer with three of the horses late at night. It was a ranch escape convoy out of the fires.

“Definitely shocking, once we got all the horses loaded up and headed out we headed down valley it was dark at that point,” Tulie said. “So you could basically only see was the fire. And that’s all pretty shocking.”

Tulie’s mother Annie said it was hard to decide to leave, but eventually around 10 p.m. they made up their minds.

“We didn’t want to be an encumbrance to the firefighters and law enforcement that wanted to keep everybody safe,” Annie explained. “And we didn’t want to be trapped in the valley because of the exit routes getting shut down and the predictions of worse weather to come.”

They drove more than two hours south to Wenatchee. They didn’t know if there would be room at the ranch for them, but it was their best shot. They pulled in after midnight, took care of the horses, ate Pringles for dinner, and checked into a hotel.

Feeling lucky

When they woke up, it was back to the Appleatchee Ranch. The 15 horses and ponies were pacing their stalls, waiting for their turn to be ridden.

These are the ballet dancers of horses. They’re athletes. The kind you see in the Olympics. Some of them herd cattle and others do high jumps. They want to move.

“We’re going to come up with a plan,” Annie said. “But in terms of exercising all the horses, we the humans are outnumbered by all the horses right now here.”

They all got to come out eventually, but only about two at a time. First, there was feeding, watering and cleaning stalls.

Still the small crew of mostly women like Jasmine Minbashian feel lucky to have escaped. Lucky that the ranch is still standing. Lucky that all their animals and everyone are all safe. Several of these horse-tenders lost their homes just last year in the massive Carlton Complex wildfires.

“The most important thing is to everybody, keep two-leggeds and four-leggeds out of harms way,” Jasmine said.

Losing homes and friends

Brushing down their horses, Annie and Tulie say they lost their home last year. They’ve started over with a new home.

And now Tulie is worried about something more important.

“We have a lot of friends that are working on the crews,” Tulie said. “That’s the hardest part. I mean losing houses and all of that is hard and I’ve experienced that first hand. But it’s nothing compared with losing friends.”

She went to school with Tom Zbyszewski, one of the three firefighters killed Wednesday.

“And a number of my friends are on his crew,” she said. “They’re OK but they are right there on the front lines. And it’s hard not to be with them right now for sure.”