Horse owners in Athens removed 200 horses on Thursday from dilapidated stables that had been red-tagged on orders from Los Angeles County, which said the structures were unsafe after a fire two weeks ago.
The evictions were ordered by the Sheriff’s Department on Wednesday, after a June 17 fire at the stables on West 131st Street that killed three horses and a goat.
Eviction notices were posted indicating horse owners had 24 hours to relocate. Owners brought in trucks and trailers overnight Wednesday to make the move by Thursday morning.
Some said they were caught off guard.
"Animal control never told us it was unsafe for our animals to be here," said horse owner Sidney Crosby. "We did remove a lot of the debris from the fire … We always comply with the issues they say they have."
Nathan Bryant, who rides horses with many of the owners, said he went to Athens to help horse owners remove their animals by the deadline.
"The stable was in chaos," Bryant said. "Everybody had to move their horses. I came out to help. I ride with these people up here. My job is to help a hand when I can help a hand."
The stables are located in Athens, a small unincorporated community in the area between Compton and South Los Angeles.
Horse owners had until 7 a.m. to remove their animals from the stables located along two blocks between 131st and 132nd streets off Figueroa Street (map).
Rick Velasquez, with the arson unit of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, said the cause of the fire is undetermined, but that the fire could have been sparked by a hot barbecue.
The fire broke out in a stable tack room. Velasquez theorized that someone left the barbecue -- hot from the evening's Father's Day celebration -- near the stable.
The stables were operating illegally and had no lights, Velasquez added, noting that county officials had red-tagged the structure on June 17.
Arson officials with the Sheriff’s Department were investigating the cause of the fire. They were not immediately available to comment Thursday.