April 2008 Report

Fire Savages Preserve; Horses OK

A fire was set on the former Bahama Star Farm around Thursday, April 11. The fire spread and on April 17 burst into two weeks of intense, many fronted wildfire activity which devastated the Abaco Wild Horse Preserve and Conservation area.

The fire raged on several constantly shifting fronts, at times at least one front was half a mile wide, and moved up what would have been the stallion area in the shape of a U. Two roads initially contained this fire on the sides, with the base of the U being the active, moving front (at times a half mile wide). Unfortunately the fire eventually jumped both roads and the leading edge was never stopped for more than about 12 hours at a time. Another front was on the farm near the Preserve and a third was in the Conservation area.

Several times Avener, Jean and I fought and stopped two fronts. Then the wind would shift and blow fire back on us from different directions. At one point we fought non stop for 55 hours. We utilized back burning; back pack sprayers, weed whackers, a back pack blower were used for vegetation removal, to no avail. Shifting winds and strong gusts removed any chance of real anticipation of the fire’s course. The men are to be commended for their valiant efforts.

Despite the fire searing to within inches of the containers, guard dogs’ pen and the horses’ mini pasture, the final tally is:

• Horses ok
• Guard/Rescued dogs ok
• Personnel suffering adrenaline overload and sleep deprivation, but ok
• Our truck: blown engine
• Considerable fence lost, but much saved
• One 12 volt water pump burned out
• Some mini pasture equipment lost (fence tape, step in posts, wiring)

We are worried about Stallion Achernar. His lungs wherre damaged by chemicals years ago. Mare dubhe had a similar problem, and died after smoke inhalation. Both Hadar and Achernar, still at large, appear to be well, they too have good forage, but the entire area was so filled with smoke that we don't know if Achernar ever found a place with clean air or how long he might have had to breath smoke.

While scanty, there is sufficient pasture left for the horses until new growth appears . The horses immediately moved into the forest to browse on toasted palm, briar and poison wood. They have done this in the past and seem to relish the change in diet. A lab report indicates that the burned poison wood contains considerable nutritious material. We provided additional water in a tub in the corral area just to be sure they got enough, but at least two of the water holes are at normal levels.. It was gratifying to note that though the horses fled the blaze (the mini pasture fence melted on schedule) they returned to the Preserve area the next day.

Our immediate need is for a bulldozer to clear All the roads in the Preserve so that we can keep them open. Our tractor can then maintain the roads if we can find a plow for it. A fire break must be cleared around the portions of the farm adjacent to us. We need a water pump, two more back pack sprayers. We have an interim vehicle, but need to find somehting sturdy and reliable ASAP.


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