When the Crews Fire sparked near Gilroy and quickly spread east on July 5, the blaze appeared to be making its way toward the Gilroy Ostrich Farm, fueled by dry brush and tall grass.
Staff at the farm, located on Pacheco Pass Highway near the intersection of San Felipe Road, sprang into action on a daunting task: evacuating more than 200 ostriches, pigs, goats, cows, emus, chickens and other animals.
Fortunately, the flames missed.
“The recent fire came dangerously close to our farm, and we want to sincerely thank our community who helped us relocate and return more than 200 animals that are all home, safe and sound,” Gilroy Ostrich Farm staff said in a statement.
The farm, which reopened in late May following a county-mandated closure due to the shelter-in-place order, has once again opened its gates after the fire-related closure.
It is open Monday-Thursday, 10am-5pm, and Friday-Sunday, 9am to 7pm.
Dan Nelson, a Morgan Hill-based developer who has worked on projects in the South Valley and beyond, is the founder of the Gilroy Ostrich Farm. He purchased the 114-acre property in 2018 to embark on a quest to bring the African native birds to not only the South Valley and San Benito communities, but to the state as a whole. The farm opened to the public in June 2019.
“There are few experiences as rewarding and enriching as connecting with wildlife, and in these extreme times of stress and uncertainty, our visitors find peace and tranquility in our vast outdoor space,” he said. “Feeding and petting the many animals aren’t just fun weekend activities with the family, they can also reduce anxiety and depression, provide social support and a sense of purpose.”
The farm has taken a number of safety measures in light of Covid-19. Wherever feasible, Gilroy Ostrich Farm promotes a one-way self-guided tour experience that reinforces social distancing guidelines. Guides will be on hand to assist guests and encourage social distancing.
All staff wear masks in enclosed areas and when in close contact with visitors. Guests outdoors are encouraged to, but not required to wear face coverings, according to the farm. Hand sanitizing stations are available throughout.
The Crews Fire, which burned 5,513 acres in the week since it ignited, is now fully contained, CalFire announced July 14.
The fire began July 5 in the area of Crews Road and Sunlit Oaks Court northeast of Gilroy. The cause is under investigation.
One structure was destroyed in the blaze.
The fire, as well as the Covid-19-related closure, underlined the Gilroy Ostrich Farm’s need for more heavy equipment as well as food and supplies for the rescue animals it takes in on a weekly basis.
The farm has set up an online fundraiser on GoFundMe. It is currently in need of RVs, heavy equipment such as tractors and trucks, and in-kind tax-deductible donations.