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How a group of barn hands and total strangers evacuated more than 100 horses from the Marshall Fire

When the Marshall Fire spread quickly Thursday, there wasn’t much time to move large animals out of the evacuation zones.

ARVADA, Colo. — Hundreds of pets and large animals had to be evacuated Thursday when the Marshall Fire barreled over neighborhoods and closed in on barns and stables.  

At Standley Lake Stables in Arvada, barn hands, horse owners and total strangers worked together to move nearly 100 horses out of the evacuation zone. Fortunately, the stable was spared from the fire, but still has no power.  

“When it started to glow, and we could smell it with that wind, that’s when the panic set in for everybody,” said barn hand Allie Dirks, who helped move 95 horses, eight steers and three dogs off the property. 

Watching the smoke rise in the horizon, Dirks said the group worked tirelessly for three hours loading horses into trailers. When the Boulder County large animal shelter reached capacity, Standley Lake Stables diverted to the Jefferson County Fairgrounds.  

“I don’t even know how many trailers, I couldn’t even count them all. It was a constant influx of cars, a constant circle,” Dirks said.  

Fourteen of the horses were still sheltering at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds Saturday, including Whiskey, owned by retired teacher Nancy Dougan. 

“She means the world to me,” Dougan said. “You picture sparks flying, and you picture horses not wanting to go in the trailer. And you picture the chaos, and the wind.” 

Several horses remain at shelters until the roads clear. Standley Lake Stables says sadly, one of the older horses couldn’t handle the stress of the evacuation and had to be put down Friday night. 

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