Former Quay trainer leads horses to safety from wildfires

By QCS Staff

QCS staff
Clarissa Czuprynski, 23, a 2001 graduate of House School, moved to California three years ago to train horses, said her mother, Margaret Czuprynski, who lives in Tucumcari and works at Dan Trigg Hospital.
Clarissa Czuprynski is a former Quay County 4-H Rodeo Queen and worked for several years training horses and teaching youngsters to ride in Tucumcari, her mother said.
Clarissa Czuprynski now lives near Valley Center in Southern California where more than 2,000 homes have been destroyed since Oct. 21, according to news reports
Now that the fires have been contained, Clarissa Czuprynski e-mailed her mother and others: �I would start out by thanking everyone for their calls and helping hands. It was greatly appreciated in this time of distress.�
What follows is her daughter�s email diary which tells of Clarissa Czuprynski�s brush with the fires.

Sunday, Oct. 21, 9 p.m.
After watching the smoke of the Ramona fires all day and dealing with the Santa Ann winds ranging from 50 to 60 miles per hour, I was getting ready for some rest. Then the lady who owns the barn I train out of came knocking on my door telling me to be ready in 15 minutes � it was time to start evacuating the 80 horses we had on site.
There was only one way in and out of Bear Valley
Frustrated, I got up and ready to go. I had never been in an evacuation myself, nor had I ever had to evacuate 80 horses.
I scrambled out without anything but what was on my back. After all the animals were out of the barn, I did not know when we would be able to return.
As we started to haul the horses, friends came together to help. Forty horses went to the town of San Marcos and 40 went up into Valley Center (where I was in charge) at a ranch called Irish Oaks. We hauled non-stop all night with no food or sleep. We finally got the last load to Irish Oaks at 5 a.m with the fire in the distance. Then we started our day with feeding and cleaning barn and also removing brush around the ranch.
As night fell, I was lucky enough to be able to stay with some friends, Mike and Gina, who lived only 2 miles away
The fire was in the distance and it looked safe enough to get some rest and food for the days to come.
Tuesday, Oct. 23, 4 a.m.
I got a call from a friend saying the fire was here and it was time to go. … As I got up and dressed, I went out into the living room to find everyone watching TV. By then, Gina was ready to move her horses over to Irish Oaks in hopes that they would all be safe in one place.
As we went outside you could see flames in the distance as ash poured down like snow, the wind blowing it into our faces at about 50 miles per hour.
I hauled four horses down the road as the whole town of Valley Center got up to a mandatory evacuation. But there was no way we could possibly move all of the horses due to traffic and lack of helping hands.
We got all the horses to the ranch and this time we ended up having 100 head in my care. Some were horses that people just dropped off at the ranch as they tried to get out themselves.
So, we started our day feeding and cleaning. As the day went by, no one was allowed to leave or come into Valley Center.
Wednesday-Thursday, Oct. 23-24
Wednesday and Thursday rolled by slowly. And with company of good friends, we did what we needed to do. We all camped out at the ranch in the trucks and trailers. Some one had to stand watch at all times � in the distance Palmar Mountain was on fire, and fire was surrounding us from every side.
Friday, Oct. 25, 3 a.m.
My working student Shelby came pounding on the window of my truck as I woke up to see a tree in the middle of the ranch on fire. We all jumped out grabbing hoses and buckets trying to put out the flames. It took about an hour to get the situation under control but luckily that�s all that happened. No horses or people were hurt.
By Friday afternoon they finally got the fire 45 percent contained and it was moving the other direction.
Saturday, Oct. 27
They finally let us come home. All the horses came in safe and sound. The fire did come up to the back line of the ranch.
There was damage to my bedroom windows. They were blown open and melted. The heat ruined all of my clothing and bed, but that was no concern to me, knowing all my friends and family were back to safety.
I want to thank everyone again for their strong support. We couldn�t have done it without you.
Now we are back home speaking to those who lost homes and offering any help we can give them.