By the time Travis Ochs got a phone call urging him to flee his home, the CalWood Fire was already close to blocking off his only escape route.
Travis lives on a ranch at the edge of Geer Canyon Drive in Boulder, Colorado, which has been in his family for more than 80 years. His mother and sister live on the property, so he rushed to pick his mom up and jumped in his truck.
After driving his mother to safety, he returned to the ranch to shut off the gas and evacuate as many animals as possible.
“I started up and there was kind of a dark smoke, and right in front of me this tree, a three-story pine tree, was completely on fire,” he said. “I had no idea the fire was that close. I turned around immediately. There were big chunks of burning wood falling all over the road.”
So he went to his sister's house, and they left with just the clothes on their backs, racing against time to lead their animals away from the fire.
Boulder County sent horse trailers to help the ranchers evacuate. With four of his horses loaded up, a new problem arose. Adam, Travis' favorite draft horse, was too tall to fit inside.
Out of time, Travis made a decision he described as "horrifying." At the urging of authorities, he turned Adam and Ennis, his companion donkey, loose.
Travis has raised Adam and Ennis, who are both 14, since they were just 6 months old. He said they're incredibly affectionate, bonded animals who "love people."
Devastated, Travis left the property unsure if he would ever see his sweet friends again.
The next day, authorities returned to find that the fire had burned all of the family's property and belongings down... except for one patch of grass that was surrounded by blackened ground. On that small half acre stood Adam and Ennis, safe and sound!
The animals were "a little singed and hungry" but otherwise in excellent condition! Even though they were in a state of shock, they still felt comfortable enough to approach their rescuers and gently lick their hands.
As for Travis, he was overjoyed to hear that his two favorite buddies had survived! No one is quite sure how they managed to do it, but Travis thinks they likely helped each other get through it.
“Yes, they were very glad to see me. They were thrilled," he said. “I could see the entire forest burned completely. Rocks exploded, it was so hot.”
What a miraculous escape! We're so glad there's a wonderful silver lining for this family in their time of need.
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