Retired Marine rescues horses from raging California wildfire

COTTONWOOD, Calif., July 29 (Reuters) - Tucker Zimmerman has gotten little sleep during the raging deadly fire in Shasta County, California. The retired U.S. Marine has rushed into a new battle, as a volunteer rescuing stranded horses and other livestock.

"I'm just the guy who moves stuff around," he said modestly. The "stuff" he speaks of refers to the panicked horses and other livestock he wrangles out of harm's way when they get left behind after the humans have fled.

With a large trailer borrowed from his job selling tractor equipment, Zimmerman has ventured daily into various evacuation zones just as homeowners threatened by the Carr Fire were rushing in the other direction.

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TOPSHOT - An inmate firefighter pauses during a firing operation as the Carr fire continues to burn in Redding, California on July 27, 2018. - One person has died and at least two others have been injured as wind-whipped flames tore through the region. (Photo by JOSH EDELSON / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Toys stand untouched near a home destroyed by the Carr Fire west of Redding, California, U.S. July 28, 2018. REUTERS/Bob Strong
A woman covers her face while viewing her grandmother's burned home during the Carr fire in Redding, California on July 27, 2018. - 'Two firefighters have been killed in the Carr fire. A private contractor (operating) a bulldozer died yesterday and a Redding City firefighter was killed in the evening,' a spokesman for Calfire, the state's Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, told AFP. (Photo by JOSH EDELSON / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)
A real estate sign is seen in front of a burning home during the Carr fire in Redding, California on July 27, 2018. - One firefighter has died and at least two others have been injured as wind-whipped flames tore through the region. (Photo by JOSH EDELSON / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)
A firefighter watches flames advance up a hill towards homes as crews battle the Carr Fire, west of Redding, California, U.S. July 27, 2018. REUTERS/Fred Greaves
Kambryn Brilz, 12, holds her dog Zoe at her burnt home after she was returned safely by a neighbor during the Carr fire in Redding, California on July 27, 2018. One firefighter has died and at least two others have been injured as wind-whipped flames tore through the region. (Photo by JOSH EDELSON / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)
A firefighter watches flames advance up a hill towards homes as crews battle the Carr Fire, west of Redding, California, U.S. July 27, 2018. REUTERS/Fred Greaves
The debris of a burned home is seen after the Carr Fire west of Redding, California, U.S. July 28, 2018. REUTERS/Bob Strong?
A firefighter walks between brush rigs as the the Carr Fire burns behind him, west of Redding, California, U.S. July 27, 2018. REUTERS/Fred Greaves
A CalFire firefighter douses flames on a burning home during the Carr fire in Redding, California on July 27, 2018. - 'Two firefighters have been killed in the Carr fire. A private contractor (operating) a bulldozer died yesterday and a Redding City firefighter was killed in the evening,' a spokesman for Calfire, the state's Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, told AFP. (Photo by JOSH EDELSON / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Inmate fire crews cut a fire line during the evening as crews battle the Carr Fire, west of Redding, California, U.S. July 27, 2018. REUTERS/Fred Greaves
A firefighter watches flames advance up a hill towards homes as crews battle the Carr Fire, west of Redding, California, U.S. July 27, 2018. REUTERS/Fred Greaves
Inmate fire crews cut a fire line during the evening as crews battle the Carr Fire, west of Redding, California, U.S. July 27, 2018. REUTERS/Fred Greaves
A charred statue is seen among the burned out remains of a residential neighborhood during the Carr fire in Redding, California on July 27, 2018. Two firefighters have died and dozens of homes have burned as wind-whipped flames tore through the region. (Photo by JOSH EDELSON / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)
A firefighter watches the flames advance up a hill towards homes as crews battle the Carr Fire, west of Redding, California, U.S., July 27, 2018. REUTERS/Fred Greaves
A firefighter watches flames advance up a hill towards homes as crews battle the Carr Fire, west of Redding, California, U.S., July 27, 2018. REUTERS/Fred Greaves
Celia Corona rescues an injured cat in a burned residential neighborhood during the Carr fire in Redding, California on July 27, 2018. Two firefighters have died and hundreds of homes have burned as wind-whipped flames tore through the region. (Photo by JOSH EDELSON / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Keaton Brilz, 14, looks at his burned home with his family during the Carr fire in Redding, California on July 27, 2018. Two firefighters have died and more than 100 homes have burned as wind-whipped flames tore through the region. (Photo by JOSH EDELSON / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Wade Brilz looks at his burned home during the Carr fire in Redding, California on July 27, 2018. Two firefighters have died and more than 100 homes have burned as wind-whipped flames tore through the region. (Photo by JOSH EDELSON / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - Firefighters monitor a backfire during the Carr fire in Redding, California on July 27, 2018. - One person has died and at least two others have been injured as wind-whipped flames tore through the region. (Photo by JOSH EDELSON / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)
REDDING, CA - JULY 27: A home burns along Sunflower Road during the Carr Fire on July 27, 2018 in Redding, California. A firefighter was killed battling the fast moving Carr Fire which has burned over 28,000 acres and destroyed dozens of homes. The fire is reportedly only 6 percent contained. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Fire fighters battle the Carr Fire west of Redding, California, U.S. July 28, 2018. REUTERS/Bob Strong
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On Saturday, he had just delivered to safety five horses he managed to capture in one newly evacuated area, before receiving a call to pick up others nearby.

The horses were being taken to stables, rodeo grounds and ranches whose owners have opened their property to the steady stream of livestock rescued by Zimmerman since Wednesday.

"He restored my faith in humanity," said Noah Urban, an Oregon resident whose stranded 6-year-old horse named Bolt was saved by Zimmerman. The two connected through Facebook.

"You're not just helping the animals, he's helping people to alleviate their stress," Urban said. "It would be like losing your children. If you had to leave them behind, I can't even think about it."

Zimmerman is not alone. Communicating through social media, text messages, radio and word-of-mouth, a network of animal lovers and animal-control authorities have banded together over the past few days to rescue as many stranded critters as possible.

At an outlet mall in nearby Anderson, the din of barking fills an empty storefront used as overflow housing for the animals of Haven Humane Society. Besides their usual charges seeking full-time homes, volunteers were accepting dogs and cats brought in by evacuated residents unable to care for their pets while displaced.

Four Pomeranians delivered in two armfuls sniffed their new cages, a fuzzy Newfoundland mix pawed at his cage, and a tabby cat huddled wide-eyed gazing at the commotion. Only a small green turtle delivered in a glass tank seemed unfazed.

Dan Fults, 47, and his wife had dropped off their Huskies, Balto and Lucian, to be cared for at the facility, an hour after fleeing their home. The couple were keeping their two cats and a parrot for the time being.

"Sure, I have valuable things in my home, but the pets obviously take priority," Fults said.

Back at the Cottonwood Creek Ranch, Zimmerman was in his truck responding to the latest calls for assistance.

"When I was deployed (in the military), I couldn't have animals, but I am an animal lover," he said.

While Zimmerman has a proven talent for handling nervous horses, he doesn't discriminate against two-legged creatures in need of help.

"I saved a guy named Matt. He was trying to water down his house" as flames erupted, Zimmerman recalled. "I said, 'Let's go!'" (Reporting by Alexandria Sage; Editing by Steve Gorman and Sandra Maler)

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