Jim Tindell still recovering after Buckweed fire.
In late October, as the Buckweed and Ranch fires brought Santa Clarita to its knees, media throughout the nation rushed to report on one man who had been killed in the flames. Of course, in those few days information was hard to come by, and even if you could get some, it was constantly changing. As it turned out, there was no fatality, but there was a man who was burned, badly. His story, as reported after the fires, is a tale of courage, determination and hope.
Now, for the first time after the fires, Jim Tindell talked to KHTS about that day, his painful recovery and now what appears to be a happy ending. His voice was upbeat and youthful. It was a surprise considering that he’s spent the last two and a half months in the Grossman Burn Center.
“I only saw the fire off the I-5,” Tindell said. “There was no warning about the other fire.” Tindell was with his wife, Terri and their two children in a plot of land on Bouquet Canyon Road, a few miles north of Santa Clarita. The property housed the family’s mobile home, 11 horses and a small practice arena where the horses helped provide therapy to disabled children. Heads Up Therapy on Horseback had called the location home for years.
The thick smoke that enveloped the property that day was believed to have come from the Ranch fire, which started late a day before and had quickly grown. Little did Tindell know, the Buckweed Fire, started by a boy playing with matches in Agua Dulce, was headed right at him.
Then Jim says that he saw sparks starting to come over the hill that sits on the property. At that point he put his family in the car and told them to leave. He picked up the phone and started making calls to arrange for trailers to come and pick up the horses. It was at that point Tindell’s worst nightmare came true.
The flames had come over the hill and started to burn around him. Instead of making his escape, he rushed to where the horses were and started leading them into the practice arena, which was clear of brush. He managed to get most of the horses into the arena, but quickly the fire moved in too close and he had to leave.
Running away from the flames, Tindell began to run down Bouquet Canyon Road, but he couldn’t stay on his feet. “The wind was blowing anywhere from 80 to 90 miles per hour, knocking me over,” he recalled.
While the wind was making it hard to move, the smoke was making it nearly impossible to breathe or see. Despite his battling and determination, Tindell looked up to see a thick wall of fire blocking his escape across Bouquet Canyon Road.
“Either you go through it or you give up,” Tindell said.
The wall of flames proved to be passable, but with severe consequences. Tindell suffered severe burns to this hands and his face. After an amazing journey through the veins of the worst fire in Santa Clarita history, Jim was met by a Forest Ranger truck.
Jim was immediately taken to the Grossman Burn Center in Sherman Oaks and rushed into surgery. He didn’t know it at the time, but his home and all of his family’s personal belongings had been completely decimated by the Buckweed fire.
Out of ashes and charred steel came a miracle the next day, when a young girl rode her bicycle up to a Sheriff’s Deputy named Bob Foster and told him that the Heads Up Horses were in trouble. Foster grabbed some volunteers and the Sheriff’s horse trailer and went to the Heads Up property, where he was amazed to find that all the horses had survived.
In all, only two had suffered minor burns, and it is no doubt that things could have ended up much worse for the animals if Jim Tindell hadn’t stayed behind to move them.
Jim, on the other hand, had a long road to recovery. To this day, he is in the Grossman Burn Center, where he recently underwent a procedure that involved sewing his hand into his stomach to help regenerate flesh on the badly burned limb.
Tindell has been told that in one to two weeks he may be transported to a rehabilitation facility for further treatment. After two weeks there, he should be on his way home.
Since the Tindell’s mobile home on the Heads Up property was completely destroyed, Jim’s wife Terri was looking for a new place to live. During the search, her father suffered a stroke and had to be placed in a facility that could care for him, so the family has moved into his Newhall home. The horses are being kept on a volunteer’s property.
When Jim Tindell tells the story of that day, he glosses over his run through fire, his quick thinking bravery, and his battle to survive. Instead, his voice rises just a little, and he talks about what the future holds.
“What I want to do is get that horse therapy up again…that’s my main goal,” Tindell told KHTS. He also asked that we publish his family’s thanks for all of the donations and care that they have received since the fires.
Heads Up Therapy On Horseback has organized two fundraisers for Jim and his family, as well as the organization itself to get back up and running.
The first will be on Sunday January 20th from 1:00pm to 5:00pm at the La Quinta Inn, on the Old Road near Lyons Avenue. The event is called Baskets of Love and it will include a silent auction featuring Longaberger baskets, autographed sports memorabilia, and a surprise guest speaker.
The second event is a Bowl-A-Thon, which serves as one of the biggest fundraisers for Heads Up each year. The Bowl-A-Thon is planned for Saturday, February 16th at the Santa Clarita lanes. Teams, individual bowlers and sponsors are still needed for this event, and if you are interested, click here to find out more.
Also, to see more pictures of the Heads up property, you can visit www.headsuptherapy.com .