Valley News -

By Tony Ault
Staff Writer 

An ode to 'Hewey,' lost to the Cranston Fire

 

Last updated 8/16/2018 at 9:58am

Tony Ault

Idyllwild horse owner Gary Gray looks for two horses that were feared lost in the McCall Memorial Park area of Mountain Center. The home in the background was that of Mary McDonald, one of five homes destroyed in the Cranston fire Wednesday, July 25.

The Holy Fire still burns in Lake Elsinore bringing in strong feelings of despair and anger from many survivors of the devastating Cranston Fire that tore through Mountain Center and threatened the entire township of Idyllwild in July.

"People just don't understand the trauma people go through in the wake of these fires," Gary Gray, an equestrian and a survivor of the Cranston Fire said in a telephone interview. "Yet, how they come together in these times is amazing."

Gray, after evacuating from his fire threatened home in Idyllwild last month, learned July 25 that his Mustang "Hewey," and two other horses stabled in Mountain Center during the Cranston blaze, had been turned loose from their corral by firefighters trying to stop the spread of the flames on McCall Park Memorial Road. The hope was the horses would escape the blaze on their own.

This Anza Valley Outlook reporter with Gray and his friend Clayton Rutherford, a tracker escorted by a U.S. Forest Service firefighter, went to the location of the burned out stable owned by Mary McDonnell in hopes of finding Hewey and his stablemates. On arrival, McDonnell's home was in smoldering ruins. There was no trace of the horses. The only tracks seen by tracker Rutherford were those of fire trucks and a bobcat print. He did receive a call from someone saying they thought they found Hewey.

The next day, Gray confirmed that Hewey had been found by Mountain Center neighbors along with Gayley and Breeze the other horses in that were with Hewey. Unfortunately, Breeze, a very old horse owned by McDonnell, was found dead. Gray said Hewey was burned in his escape from the fire and needed treatment for his injuries.

Unexpected help came from a Pacific Crest Trail hiker and his wife, who stayed over to help the injured Hewey, Gray said, 24-hours a day for nearly a week at a borrowed stable. A local veterinarian provided salve and antibiotics to help Hewey hopefully recover from his burns, which were far more serious than first thought. The hiker, a retired Navy Corpsman attached to the Marines, who Gray said had no experience with horses, stayed on to help treat the horse hour after hour during the following week.

"Hewey and the Marine really bonded," Gray said.

Then a letter came from Gray to the Anza Valley Outlook, Monday, Aug. 6, with some sad news about Hewey. It reads:

"I have some sad news to report today. Hewey had sustained more severe burns than we initially thought from the Cranston Fire. As the week progressed, with his burns being expertly cared for and with much TLC, 24/7 for both, he continued to spiral downhill physically, eventually with an infection that the antibiotics could not keep up with. He continued to eat, drink and poop – all his Mustang survival instincts intact! I'm grateful that I have had the last two days to say goodbye. His spirit never faltered, but his body just could not cope with the stress and trauma dealt to him by the fire. Thus, I had to make the difficult decision to help him pass on to the other side. Five minutes before the vet arrived to do what we had to do, Hewey hobbled a few steps over to me on his one good leg and lowered his head to my chest. I felt he said to me, "It's OK I'm ready to go." He knew. I'm going to miss him as he has been a great friend and companion for more than 15 years. Anyone who has experienced the spirit of a great horse knows what I have experienced. It is with great gratitude and love that I say goodbye to my friend. Always, Gary."

Along with the letter came a phone call; Gray said he was grateful for all those who helped him, the U.S. Forest Service, Cal Fire, Cal Trans, Riverside County Sheriff and Highway Patrol and all the mountain residents who grouped together to help each other in the crisis and those in the Valley below.

The Hewey story is just one of the many stories coming out of the Cranston Fire crisis that tells of the heartbreak, heroism and kindness of every American in a crisis.

Tony Ault can be reached by email at [email protected]

 

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