On August 18, 2020, the LNU Lightning Complex Fires completely engulfed Samuels Ranch.
We had no warning.
Jasmine heard the fire, and rushed to rouse the rest of the family. The fire had already destroyed the main ranch well and was moving quickly from both the north and west. Jasmine, Kathy, Whitney, and Yuri rushed to release the livestock. There was no time to load the livestock trailers, no time for friends and Solano CART volunteers to help. Several times, family members lost sight of each other in the flames. Kathy was engulfed in fire and suffered second degree burns trying to release the last group of rams. Yuri burned his hands extinguishing the fire on the truck Kathy was driving. Even working together, we couldn't extinguish the fire on Jasmine's truck, and she drove over 6 miles with flames in the bed and dragging the fence she had to run over to escape. Her gas tank melted from the top down, and her truck had to be abandoned. The houses caught fire around 10:38 pm. An evacuation order for our area went out at 2:00 am the next morning. Kathy's 911 call was the first notice Solano County emergency responders had that the fires were moving towards Vacaville.
Over half of the sheep, most of the goats, and all of the barn cats perished in the fire. All had names, personalities, and were loved. All are missed. Surviving sheep suffered burns, some 3rd degree, and smoke inhalation complications. Several are receiving ongoing medical care.
Every single acre of the ranch burned. All three family homes are gone. All nine barns. The walnut processing equipment, every workshop and garage. No two boards nailed together by Samuels ancestors still stand. Both wells melted. Trees are continuing to die. Perennial native bunchgrasses, which can live to be 40 years old or more, are puffs of ash. Everything we worked to protect for 128 years has been destroyed or impacted.
We are not okay.
But where there is life, there is hope. Grandma always said that, and we need to believe it now more than ever. We will rebuild. Where there is life, there is hope.
Restoring the ranch, restoring our faith in humanity
In the aftermath, we have been in survival mode.
We have the most wonderful, supportive friends, without whom, we would be lost.
Some of them helped rescue surviving animals, some are continuing to host and care for our remaining sheep and Lily the donkey. Two of our friends arranged a GoFundMe. So many of our friends, coworkers, and complete strangers have donated to help care for the sheep, to help Whitney restock her classroom (due to COVID deep cleaning, she had all of her teaching materials home at the time of the fire), and to help us rebuild.
You have restored our faith in humanity.
We want to thank you all, and we hope to eventually have a gratitude page. For now, I want to give special thanks to the people who helped us get our animals to safety:
Aubrianne and Cal Zamora, Zamora Flora.
Cal and Aubrianne drove their florist van through miles of still-active burn to rescue the first group of most severely burned sheep, whom they whisked away for medical attention. Then, they continued to help with the rescue missions, and have been caring for over 25 of the sheep needing special care. Aubrianne is also one of the friends (along with Erin Bertsch) who arranged the GoFundMe and has been the organizational power behind our most successful volunteer gathering. Aubrianne is basically Jasmine's hero. We would also like to thank the Tauzer family of Tauzer apiaries for hosting the sheep the Zamoras are caring for.
Ian, Margaret, and Neil Anderson, Anderson Farms
Ian and Neil were the first to bring livestock trailers to the ranch, spent a long hard day loading animals with no loading ramps or surviving equipment, and have been hosting the bulk of the herd ever since. The Andersons have been such a comfort to our family and we are forever grateful.
We met some truly wonderful people through this amazing volunteer organization. Many special thanks to Peter. Someday, when we have trailers again, we would like to join and give back.