Cow Palace a ‘modern day Noah’s Ark’, takes in evacuated livestock

Ranch owners are calling the Cow Palace in Daly City a saving grace for serving as an evacuation site for livestock and others animals displaced by the CZU Lightning Complex Fire.

Some have called it a modern day Noah’s Ark. Nearly 300 animals are being kept safe at the event center.

Mara McCain and her family have been ranchers in Woodside for 40 years. She said her family got the notification to evacuate late Thursday night.

“We have 70 goats, three llamas, nine horses, and one barn cat,” McCain said. “You wonder, how am I going to get 70 goats out before the fire gets here?”

Roughly two dozen volunteers answered the call. Many of them are a part of the San Mateo County Large Animal Evacuation Group. The organization has help more than 1,400 animals to safe shelters since last week.

“We've got a lot of volunteers out there who have just been working their hearts out,” said Kris Thoren, President of the SMC Large Animal Evacuation Group.

The group also helped Steven Ciarametaro, owner of Ciara West Equestrian in Woodside. Ciarametaro had an evacuation plan in place, but chose to move 25 horses to the Cow Palace as a precaution.

“I'm very happy at how calm these horses are,” he said. I couldn't expect better from what the situation is.”

The Peninsula Humane Society is tracking intake of all the animals. It keeps a list of where the animals are coming from, who owns them, and whether they have any special dietary or medical needs. The animals can stay free of charge and are being fed.

The Cow Palace, which has sat empty since March because of the pandemic, has space for hundreds more animals, according to CEO Lori Marshall. It is one of 17 fairground sites in California being used as an evacuation site.

“We don't know if we'll get more, we don’t know when they’ll come, but if they do, we’ll be ready. As long as they need to stay, we'll be here for them,” Marshall said.

McCain is grateful for the support.

“I can’t thank them enough,” she said. “You just don't want to think about the goats and the llamas and the horses burning up in a fire. You don’t want to think about it happening and you don't want to beg for help, but you know you can't do it yourself.”