Updated December 11, 2017.
A huge swath of Southern California is now in flames. As wildfires storm across several areas, horse owners are scrambling to rescue and evacuate hundreds of animals while residents themselves evacuate and fire crews work tirelessly to control the blaze.
Dry, hot, and windy conditions have brought on unprecedented fire danger, and hurricane-force winds of up to 80 miles per hour are fueling the blazes. As of Friday morning, December 8th, six major wildfires are burning in Southern California, the largest of which is the Thomas Fire at 132,000 acres, only 10 percent contained.
The owners of a ranch devastated by the Creek Fire returned home to find the charred remains of 29 of their horses. Ranch owner Patricia Padilla agonized over leaving the horses when she and her family were ordered to immediately evacuate in the middle of the night, leaving the horses behind. “The structures can get rebuilt, but the lives of the horses can’t… That’s my biggest heartbreak,” she told Los Angeles Times.
The state’s newest wildfire in San Diego County tore through retirement communities built on golf courses and quickly grew to six square miles. As a horse training centre was engulfed in flames, trainers turned hundreds of horses loose from burning barns so they could literally run for their lives. The scene was described as “total pandemonium” and it is estimated that about 25 of the horses perished while trying to escape the fire at San Luis Rey Downs, where nearly 500 horses had been stabled.
Tens of thousands of people are under evacuation orders, and hundreds of animals have been taken to temporary shelters. Animals are being treated for severe burns and smoke inhalation. As property damage mounts, California Governor Jerry Brown asked President Trump to declare a state of emergency for Southern California. States of emergency have already been proclaimed in San Diego, Los Angeles and Venture counties by Governor Brown.
GOFUNDME PAGE FOR THE SAN LUIS REY DOWNS FIRE RELIEF EFFORT
After the tragic Lilac Fire at San Luis Rey Downs Training Center in Bonsall, CA on December 7, 2017 overwhelmed the local horse community, the many affected horses and humans are in dire need of support. The industry has come together at an unprecedented rate during this heartbreaking situation and we turn to the community once again to request help where it is urgently needed. So many have offered their immediate assistance and many more are unable to be here but want to contribute in any way that they can.
A GoFundMe page was set up for exactly that reason. Near or far, people will be able to offer any amount knowing that 100 percent will go towards serving all the Lilac Fire efforts. Feed, bedding, blankets, and many other everyday supplies are still needed for both human and equine evacuees, and donations towards medical bills, housing, and other essential amenities are necessary to help the hurting California horse racing community.
Santa Anita Park, The Stronach Group, and the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club thank you for your support of the Thoroughbreds and the Horsemen overwrought by this tragedy.
Please note: Alexis Garske is an employee of Santa Anita Park and has created this page in partnership with the management teams of Santa Anita Park, The Stronach Group and The Del Mar Thoroughbred Club.
Please donate today and read the latest update.
With files from CBS News, Independent.co.uk, CNN.com
Photo: Canstock/Fearless Photographer