Numerous horses died or were injured Thursday when flames from the wind-driven Lilac Fire swept through the San Luis Rey Training Center in Bonsall, according to a trainer at the facility in northern San Diego County.
The trainer, Cliff Sise, told CBS8 that one of those dead was his own horse, which he tried to rescue from a burning barn.
“It was dark, everything was hot and she wouldn’t come out,” Sise said. “I opened the pen and tried to get behind her and get her out, and she wouldn’t get out. She burned to death that quick.”
He estimated “off-hand” that between 10 and 15 horses died and others were injured. His figures could not immediately be confirmed.
Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux tweeted photos of conditions at the training center, including one of horses grouped together in thick smoke.
— Kent DesOrmeaux (@DesormeauxKent) December 7, 2017
A Facebook post by the Doug O’Neill Race Stable called the situation “unimaginable,” and said the well-known thoroughbred trainer was on his way to the area.
The Del Mar Fairgrounds was opened as an evacuation center for livestock, and CBS8 reported 130 animals had been brought to the facility as of around 5 p.m. County officials urged livestock owners to evacuate their animals well ahead of time.
Officials in Del Mar said evacuees are encouraged to bring bedding, feed and horse identification. Several people in the area’s horse community put out word, via social media, that experienced horse people were being asked to go to the fairgrounds to assist with housing the animals.
Britney Eurton, a reporter with horse-racing channel TVG, tweeted that Del Mar officials were preparing to take in as many San Luis Rey horses as possible.
At least 30 horses burned to death at one ranch in Los Angeles County due to the fast-moving Creek Fire, which has now consumed thousands of acres.
Rancho Padilla, which boards horses in Sylmar, had more than 60 equines housed there, Virginia Padilla told the Los Angeles Times. She and her family put the count of dead horses at 29 as of Wednesday morning.
Untold other equine victims are likely to add to the death toll in coming days.
–City News Service, staff
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