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Dozens of people evacuated, livestock still a concern in San Rafael Fire

Whisper's Sanctuary can't evacuate all horses in the path of the San Rafael Fire south of Canelo
Posted at 5:02 PM, May 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-09 20:02:50-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — As the San Rafael Fire raced forward on Sunday and again this morning, dozens of people have been evacuated.

But it's not only humans needing a lift to safety.

The normally peaceful Whisper's Sanctuary, home to dozens of rescued and recovering horses and other large animals, sits just north of the evacuation line in Canelo.

Today the ranch is buzzing with activity and anxiety.

Director Toni Leo said, with the San Rafael Fire burning south of the ranch, neighbors helped them to trailer many of their horses to a safer location. But it was too dangerous to move some of their more wild mustangs and donkeys.

"When people are anxious animals pick up on that and we didn’t want to do that last night because it was getting dark and we didn’t want anyone to get hurt or trampled," Leo said.

The fire continues to push north and east due to strong winds. Leo says if the fire gets much closer they may have have to let the animals loose for their own safety.

"If we have to open the gates and let them out we will," Leo said. "I trust they'll come back."

Leo and others in the evacuation zone will make their decisions based on officials' evacuation orders and the fire's behavior.

"It is really sad, but I have faith," Leo said. "I would rather let them go than perish."

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Brian Brennan is a Meteorologist and reporter for KGUN 9. Brian’s fascination with weather began as a kid in Arizona watching the intense thunderstorms during monsoon. Seeing ice fall from the sky (in the form of hail) onto the hot desert got him hooked. Brian also has a passion for telling people’s stories and reporting. He has covered major breaking news, court trials, Nellis Air Force Base, and has put himself at the center of many weather events. Share your story ideas and important issues with Brian by emailing brian.brennan@kgun9.com or by connecting on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.