As fire raged just outside of Livermore over the weekend, one animal advocacy group stepped up to help evacuate horses.

On Aug. 21, Chantel Tieman, Hold Your Horses Livestock Emergency Evacuation Response Team (HYH) founder, received a call from Alameda County fire and animal services asking for her group’s help in evacuating unincorporated areas of Alameda County near Livermore.

“We were called to go to Mines Road and Tesla Road; that whole area,” Tieman said. “We are still continuing dispatching emergency volunteers to other fire areas, as well.”

Tieman said some animal owners from the area had called her team earlier in the week for help evacuating their animals. In those cases, owners arrange for a safe place for their animals to go, usually another private boarding facility. When animal services get involved, the county provides a location – in this case, the Alameda County Fairgrounds.

“Our teams have been out there in Livermore, evacuating private ranches and answering different calls animal services has placed to us and gotten the animals out of the fire zones,” said Tony Kessler, HYH strike team leader. “We have quite a few teams running out there. We were able to help a handful of different ranches. Sunday night alone, we pulled about 40 animals out.”

Kessler became involved with HYH seven years ago, when a Mount Diablo fire launched the group’s inception. Tieman, a horse lover from Contra Costa County, and her daughter, Naydeene Koster, founded HYH when the Mount Diablo fire threatened livestock on multiple ranches in the Diablo foothills.

“Our family was pulling horses away from the fire, and it was mass chaos, and we figured there had to be a better way to do this,” Tieman recalled.

She and Koster then worked together to found HYH, a far-reaching team of volunteers who have worked tirelessly to help people and animals in need when fires strike.

HYH has helped animal owners all over Northern California, and when there is a fire, HYH comes running. They have a strike team that goes behind the lines to get animals out of dangerous areas. Their team of 350 volunteer members haul and house animals and raise funds for food and supplies for livestock and their owners as they recover from losing material possessions to the devastation of fire.

“We grew into adopting survivors,” she said. “After the Paradise Fire, we spent seven months bringing supplies, not only for livestock, but humans, too. We were able to get a truck donated to one survivor, we got campers and RVs donated to survivors who had absolutely nothing. We had one guy who was a renter, and he rode his bike out into the fire with nothing but his dog in his backpack. So we are helping people in those situations.”

Tieman and her crew also work with ranchers to help them have a plan in place in case an evacuation is necessary.

“Our biggest thing is we want everyone to make sure they have a plan in place,” Kessler said. “Don’t wait to evacuate. Once you are in the yellow zone, evacuate, because if you wait until it’s a red zone, we may not be able to get in to help.”

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