Blaze at horse rescue leaves land, fences burned to ashes

SOURCE:  The Grand Island Independent

55158edea8f49.image   DIRECTOR OF DOUBLE R HORSE RESCUE Jami Salter strokes her black horse, Bella, while a horse named Rosie watches. Salter adopted both horses after they came into her rescue program, which has found new homes for 400 neglected and abused horses over the years. The rescue operation recently lost fencing and grazing pastures in a March 16 grass fire.  (photo:  Jessica Kokesh, Kearney Hub)

RIVERDALE — Jami and Joshua Salter were just days away from moving into their newly constructed home on 235th Road north of Riverdale when a March 16 grass fire ate up 500 acres in that area.

Firefighters from seven departments battled the blaze for more than six hours, fighting against high winds and dry conditions to put it out.  The fire came within 100 yards of the Salters’ home, and Jami Salter said she was worried her family would lose the house before they’d even lived in it.

“I was terrified,” Salter said of the fire.  “You don’t have time to think until it’s over and done with.”

Firefighters stayed late through the night, putting out hot spots, and Salter provided water bottles and Hot Tamales candy as they worked.

“I’m very thankful for the firefighters.  They held the line and saved all the houses down the line.  I can’t give them enough praise,” she said.

A little more than a week later, the smell of smoke still lingers in the air on the property and ash-blackened hills dominate the view from the Salters’ west-facing windows.  Though their house escaped the blaze unscathed, the couple lost 15 of their 20 acres of pasture and a mile of fence line, which is a big blow to Salter’s horse rescue operation.

Salter is the director of Double R Horse Rescue, a nonprofit organization that takes in abused, abandoned and neglected horses from across Nebraska and neighboring states and works to find them loving, forever homes. Salter had 18 horses in residence when the fire started, and neighbors helped her round the animals up so they could get to safety.

“We got lucky that no animals were hurt in the process,” she said. “Everything was safe. It was a blessing.”

Their land also was used as a staging ground for the fire departments and a portion of pasture was turned up by farmers using tractors with discs. That portion will have to be replanted.

Salter said the fire will set her operation back a few months, and she won’t be able to take in any more horses until the fence gets repaired.  Some of her horses are being temporarily fostered by neighbors.

Double R Horse Rescue adopts out around 100 horses a year, Salter said, and has re-homed more than 400 altogether.  She often spends several months working with an individual horse, nursing it back to health and paying for vet expenses; some of the horses stay with her for years.  She does this in addition to her job as a 911 dispatcher for Buffalo County.

The cost of repairing the fence and buying feed to supplement the lost grazing land is an estimated $8,000.  Salter has started a GoFundMe campaign to help offset the costs.

“It’ll take time,” Salter said of getting the horse rescue back on its feet.  “Hopefully, when the grass comes back, it’ll be nice and green. There are some blessings in disguise.  It’s a setback, but we’ll overcome it.”

For more information about the horse rescue, visit www.doublerhorserescue.com.

6 comments on “Blaze at horse rescue leaves land, fences burned to ashes

  1. Sad news, but fire is a natural part of the grassland ecosystems, and those burned acres will be greening up better than before in short order (as long as we get some rain!)

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  2. Removing the grazing herbivores that eat the drier grasses increases the likelihood that wild fires will occur and also increases the amount of damage that will occur when they do.

    Nonetheless, this is personal tragedy for this family.

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  3. Hopefully, people can help with donations to get their fencing up and some emergency hay, if needed, until the grass grows back.

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  4. A real set back, for sure, but thankfully no lives were lost. Agree with Debbie, donations would be helpful for fencing what was damaged and emergency hay, for now. I hope they receive the help needed to complete their fencing, etc., so they can continue on with their operation.

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  5. Let us know where people can send donations. Thank God no lives were lost in the fire. We cannot afford to lose any horse rescues. There are so many groups trying to save the feedlot horses. Last week 30 horses were saved from the Colorado Feedlot. However, I believe there are 4 mares in foal that missed the truck this past week. It appears that they are due to foal at any time. Check them out…$5 or $10 goes such a long way. We need to get laws passed to stop US horses from going out of our country. My prayers are with the family.

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