Animal owners were forced to release their pets and livestock Thursday as the Erskine fire roared down on homes and ranches near Lake Isabella.

They had to hope horses, goats, dogs and other animals could escape the blaze on their own.

Kern County Animal Services Director Nick Cullen said that his officers responded as the fire was starting and found a massive clean up job.

“There were already animals being let loose because the area was ablaze,” Cullen said. “It was kind of pandemonium.”

The department has one officer serving the Kern River Valley and a second officer was immediately dispatched to help.

It quickly became clear, Cullen said, that the two officers weren’t going to be able to corral all the loose animals and set up sheltering operations.

Cullen said an additional five officers were dispatched to help out and they worked until 3:30 a.m. Friday morning to set up an emergency animal shelter for four horses, a number of livestock — mostly goats — and a lot of dogs.

A shelter was first established at the Senior Center in Lake Isabella. But the fire soon threatened that location and the animal shelter, like the human one, was moved to Kernville Elementary.

Cullen suggested that people with large animals who need emergency evacuation assistance due to fire conditions call the Kern County Animal Services dispatch line at 868-7100.

Small animal owners should bring their pets with them to the shelter.

“For small animals, wherever the Red Cross is, that’s where we’ll be as well,” Cullen said.

Additionally, 49 dogs and 10 cats were being sheltered at the Kernville Elementary School shelter.

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