Another neighbor, Celeste Stoker, loaded Fudgy, an Icelandic horse, 35, into a borrowed truck (Stoker's was in the shop) and away from the neighborhood on the the southern edge of Edgewood Park. Romano is legally blind and can't drive, so her neighbors wanted to make sure Fudgy, described as a beloved, docile animal who loves children, had a way to get to safety.
He was one of four horses that stayed with the horseback riding group Junior Riders on the other side of Interstate Highway 280 in Woodside, according to Kathi Dancer, the group's program director. Fudgy returned home on Friday, June 24.
This marked the first time in their three decades in town that they've had to evacuate.
"I'm so lucky and very, very happy to be in my house," said Romano. "After the CZU (Lightning Complex) fires, I said, 'I've got to keep a go-bag.'"
Given Fudgy's age — 35 in horse years is closer to 100 in human years — Romano opted to have him stay closer to home. He'd also had four teeth extracted earlier in the day.
Other owners brought their horses to Driscoll Ranch in La Honda or the San Mateo County Event Center in San Mateo, according to Robin Camozzi, president of the San Mateo County Large Animal Evacuation. The organization is a local nonprofit activated by Cal Fire during emergencies.
The group helped evacuate thousands of animals during the CZU fires in 2020. Camozzi's group helps transport animals to holding areas when people either don't have an evacuation plan or a way to get animals out — if, for example, their trailer is broken.
Camozzi said most people in Emerald Hills already have plans for where to move their animals in case of an emergency. Most people kept their horses locally at the Mounted Patrol of San Mateo County, Portola Farms and Woodside Horse Park, she said. Some people didn't move their animals because the evacuation order was downgraded to an advisory by 9 p.m. the day the fire ignited.
Dancer said she gave Emerald Hills residents the gate code and said "come on in" when she started getting texts asking for their horses to stay at Junior Riders.
"There's a good network of neighbors where we all know each other," Dancer said. There are even cartoon drawings of Fudgy (Romano is a cartoonist), who was part of Junior Riders' riding program years ago, up on the bulletin board.
Camozzi, who's kept horses her entire life and who runs Half Moon Bay Feed and Fuel (which also runs horse boarding facilities), got involved in large animal evacuation after a large fire in Santa Cruz in 1998.
"We were told we weren't certified to cross fire lines," she said. "I couldn't stand the idea of animals being left." She's been running the San Mateo County Large Animal Evacuation for 12 years.
Camozzi prefers moving animals as far away from the fire as possible because it can be more stressful for an animal to have to move multiple times, and acclimate all over again, than moving once. For example, during the CZU fires, horses spent three and half weeks with the evacuation group. During the Tubbs Fire in 2017, moving animals 10 miles wasn't far enough, she said.
"We're always going to pick something a little farther away because it's going to be safer and long term," Camozzi said. "With all the trees and the brush and kindling (in Edgewood Park), you don't know what way that fire is going to go."
The best way to contact the animal evacuation group during an emergency is to call 911 and ask for large animal evacuation, Camozzi said.
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