Local woman helps evacuate horses from wildfire
GRASONVILLE — A local horse riding instructor helped her daughter in Florida evacuate her horses from a wildfire that threatened stables in the area.
Wendy L. Gast, a Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship certified instructor in Grasonville, got a call on March 6 from her daughter, Ashley Lyon, who lives in Naples, Fla. Her daughter said there was a wildfire currently burning in the Picayune Strand State Forest and that Everglades Ranch had evacuated Sunday night.
Lyon boarded her horse the past three years at Everglades Ranch and recently built her own stable two miles away. She moved her horse to his new home two months ago.
“Many of her friends and the surrounding stables were in panic mode due to this fire. Everglades Ranch, Belle Meade and M & H Stables are all directly adjacent to the Picayune Strand Forest trail access and were in the headline news,” Gast said.
“I looked up the current events for Collier County, and it was all over the news. She was terrified that she would have to evacuate and get her animals to safety at any time. I told her I was ‘on my way.’ I dropped everything and booked a flight direct on Southwest, flying into Fort Myers and was at her home” by 10 p.m.
March 6 was a tense night, Gast said, with high gusting winds, shifting to the north and west, which would put her daughter’s stable in its direct path.
Her daughter’s stable is about two miles from the large stables affected, but the fire would have to jump the major interstate I-75, Collier Boulevard, exit 101.
“Many thought it would not, but by Tuesday 11 a.m., it had done just that. They closed the interstate at her exit for miles. There were planes for water drops now flying directly over her property and smoke surrounding to the east and west points of her property.”
They made the decision to evacuate and we took her two horses and three others from Everglades Ranch to another stable where her daughter works, four more miles away. “We had to hand walk them, due to the condition of the access roads available,” Gast said.
The owners of that stable and property had their 18-wheeler hooked up and ready to evacuate with 10 horses if needed. “The horse community is very close, and everyone was helping each other relocate and evacuate,” Gast said.
The fire grew to 10,000 acres and was a major event for Collier County.
Gast flew by plane back home March 9 when the immediate threat to her daughter’s property was over. It wasn’t until March 19 when the fire was 95 percent contained. Fortunately, her daughter’s stable and the Everglades Ranch didn’t burn.
Wendy Gast, a horse riding instructor in Grasonville, helped her daughter move her horses, by walking them, to evacuate a wildfire in Naples.
Pictured is the wildfire in Florida in March to the east after jumping 1-75 as Wendy Gast a horse riding instructor in Grasonville, was helping her daughter evacuate her horses in Naples, Fla.