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Evacuated Horses Enjoy Waterfront Hospitality

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More than 200 horses along with their owners found refuge on San Diego's man-made Fiesta Island this week. Wildfires forced them to leave their homes. KPBS Reporter Ed Joyce has their story.

Evacuated Horses Enjoy Waterfront Hospitality

(Photo: Lee Smith and his horse "Sunny" from Jamul, are enjoying their stay at the make-shift evacuation center on Fiesta Island. Ed Joyce/KPBS )

More than 200 horses along with their owners found refuge on San Diego's manmade Fiesta Island this week. Wildfires forced them to leave their homes. KPBS Reporter Ed Joyce has their story.

The makeshift village was filled with horse trailers, pick-up trucks, and mobile homes. A quarter-mile stretch of soft dirt on the island was shelter for more than 100 people and at least 200 horses. Lee Smith of Jamul brought his four horses - Dixie, Sunny, Chip and Mister Ed.

Smith: We're not jammed in and everybody's not real packed in on top of each other. And these guys, coming around, I mean you get, this is better service than a 5-star hotel almost - so it's really wonderful for these guys, these guys, the city guys need a real pat on the back."

One of those "city guys" is Angelo Sardina.

Ed Joyce: Did you ever think you'd be shoveling, ah, horse manure and hay?

Sardina: Actually, no I didn't. But we gotta do what we have to do just to make people feel comfortable. This is a loving city and we all put our hearts and thoughts out to everybody.

City and county crews provided fresh water and hay. They even dropped off free newspapers every morning. Chris Richter is from Ramona, one of the areas devastated by the wildfires. He was happy to have a safe place for his horses.

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Richter:  San Diego has really pulled through to help us out and we really, really appreciate it. There's no way we can pay you back. I mean if something happens I would drop everything to bring things down to help you guys out and I really appreciate it.

Ed Joyce: So you really didn't plan this vacation to Mission Bay and Fiesta Island?

Richter:   No sure didn't actuallyI keep telling everybody here it's some of the best ocean real estate I could find. I figure we'll put up a fence and try to make the best of it.

Emily Taylor of Ramona says the sheltered bayside spot was ideal. A one way asphalt road paralleling soft dirt next to the water was perfect for walking horses.

071026-horse3-ekj.jpg Taylor: It was much more comfortable out here being able to exercise the horses down the water and so you know and everybody's been, the supplies and the help here have been absolutely amazing in fact I looked out my window because I heard a truck and they were cleaning out the manure piles that we had raked out.

Even though Lee Smith of Jamul called the temporary shoreline shelter a five-star hotel. He says his horses will be happier grazing on more familiar ground. Ed Joyce, KPBS News.

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