LBCC works to rescue horses caught in Oregon fires

Linn-Benton Community College’s equine science program could have 100-plus guests by the end of the week, thanks to fast work on behalf of faculty members.

Jenny Strooband, an instructor in the college’s agricultural sciences department, runs the program and has connections with the horse and livestock community throughout the state.

When the winds started pushing the fires through the Santiam Canyon in the small hours of Tuesday morning, Strooband was awake, watching social media.

“Right around 3 in the morning, calls for help started coming in, from Scotts Mills and Lyons up in the Santiam Canyon,” she said. “It just moved really fast and people were caught unaware.”

LBCC recently purchased 55 acres off Looney Lane just behind the main campus in southwest Albany, where it hopes to establish an agricultural center. Strooband worked with veterinarian Chris Wickliffe of Cascadia Equine Veterinary Clinic, who serves on the LBCC animal tech advisory committee, to arrange for safe transport of evacuated horses to the fenced pasture there.

“We pulled horses out of Stayton and Scio. We have horses coming from above Scotts Mills, I think about 100 head, to the new property on Looney Lane,” she said.

Another eight were transported to the community college’s horse barn, and another dozen to 16 are expected from the Estacada area if conditions there continue to worsen, she said. They’ll join some 16 horses already in residence.

“I offered,” Strooband said. “It’s super, super tight quarters for us, but yeah - every stall, every turnout taken.”

The 55 acres will be a little crowded if all 100 head make it over, she added, but it’s the right thing to do.

“We have a truck and trailer, we have access to feed and bedding,” she said. “This is what we do. We serve our community. We serve our community in more than just the classroom. We try to serve them in every aspect in which they need us to.”

LBCC’s mission statement is “To engage in an education that enables all of us to participate in, contribute to, and benefit from the cultural richness and economic vitality of our communities."

This particular situation is a great example of commitment and community vitality, Strooband said.

“I think it’s just a really great reminder how many horses and how much livestock is in the Willamette Valley,” she said. “We don’t see herds up and down I-5, but you get into rural areas, every family has something. It’s a huge, huge part of Oregon.”

That community raced to action immediately, she went on. In addition to LBCC, Linn and Marion counties made their fairground spaces available for evacuated horses. Wilco and Coastal Farms helped with panels and feed. Volunteers hauled horses for 20 hours straight.

“The whole horse community pulled together. People were just bending over backwards to help each other,” Strooband said.

“It was really great to see people who don’t have a lot of other stuff in common working together, supporting their neighbors and the community.”

For information on Agriculture and Animal Science programs at LBCC, please visit www.linnbenton.edu/educational-options/agriculture. Fall term begins September 28; advisors are available to help walk new students through the process of enrolling.

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