Lo­cal woman helps evac­u­ate horses from wild­fire

Record Observer - - News - By CHRISTO­PHER KERSEY ck­ersey@ches­pub.com

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.

PHO­TOS COUR­TESY OF WENDY GAST

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.

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