A fire among the hay bales stored at Hearts Therapeutic Equestrian Center early Thursday morning wiped out the grains and medicines for the horses, as well as about half the gear in the tack shack. Alexis Weaver, executive director of the horse riding therapy center, stated all the horses were safe and unaffected. “We are grateful to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department and Fire Department for quickly responding to the blaze and moving our horses out of the way,” she said in a statement.
Several engine companies arrived to the blaze, which had been called in at 6:51 a.m. on May 18, located across the road from the county transfer station. The fire had begun to spread to nearby vegetation, but that was quickly knocked down, County Fire spokesperson Captain David Zaniboni said. An investigator was looking into the cause of the fire, and no injuries were reported.
Weaver stated riding lessons would resume Friday. She added that sales of the tack room equipment provide scholarships for their riders, who are children and adults with special needs. She thanked the many people who had stopped by to offer support. See heartsriding.org for more information about the nonprofit.
After County Public Works Deputy Director Mark Schleich noticed the men in the upper photograph were wearing safety vests, not firefighter clothing, Public Works notified The Independent that transfer station employees were the first to respond to the fire. Bill Tonoli, a refuse leader at the station, said they first learned there was a fire when an employee’s wife, dropping her husband at work, asked if there was a controlled burn going on. Tonoli ran down the office stairs, and he and refuse checker Chase Deasde drove a water truck, used to control dust at the dump, across the road to Hearts. Deasde poured water on the flames until firefighters arrived.
Tonoli said the real heroes that day were Keith Stoodley, a supervisor at the transfer station, and about four men from Flood Control up the road. They went into the stable and led the horses to safety. “The fire was hot!” said Tonoli, and coming within 10 feet of the animals.