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Residents in San Rafael fire zone return home

KOLD News 6-6:30 p.m. recurring
Published: May. 10, 2022 at 9:04 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The San Rafael fire has burned 11,611 acres in the Sonoita area, and the fire is still 12% contained. 80 homes were forced to evacuate Sunday, but now residents are able to come back home.

When you think of evacuating, you typically think of people and maybe a dog or cat.

Residents in the Sonoita area have much larger pets and no matter what the size, they are coming with.

“The fear was that we would have to open up the gates and let’s them out if it got really bad but thank goodness we did not have to do that.”

Toni Leo and her late husband are the founders of Whisper’s Sanctuary, a non-profit in Elgin who rescues unwanted and neglected animals, mostly horses.

Lily is one of many horses who were going to be slaughtered. Now she and her friends are thriving.

“They have a very different life here like educating children about horses, they contribute to the community through free programs that are educational along with therapeutic,” said Leo.

Whisper’s Sanctuary had to evacuate due to the San Rafael fire.

“You know they could smell the smoke and they were getting anxious and getting concerned...You can see how it was burning and over here and it’s not very far from us or the neighbor so we thought we have a trailer, we have people, take them out, what is the worst that can happen,” she said.

Evacuation orders are now lifted, so the horses are back at home.

“Oh it is so much relief, it really is.”

Leo’s husband passed away 14-years ago but she said his presence is still very much alive in the sanctuary.

“I think he is watching over us because this fire could have been really bad,” she said.

For more information on Whisper’s Sanctuary, click here.

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