As smoke and wind drove wildfires through a horse facility, a last-ditch attempt to save thoroughbreds by setting them loose saved most of them but left about 25 horses dead after they couldn’t flee fast enough.
Trainers and staff at San Luis Rey Downs risked their own lives and while choking from the thick smoke themselves frantically worked to get horses to safety. The next day, some of the workers returned to the scene of the facility, located 35 north of San Diego County property and described the place as a war scene.
Wildfires raced through the facility late Thursday afternoon and while some horses were transported earlier in the day, no one expected the speed and ferocity of the wildfire.
It was originally estimated that 25 horses died in the fire or of fire-related injuries, although some on the scene fear it will go higher than 30.
The only known serious human casualty was trainer Martine Bellocq, who suffered second- and third-degree burns over 50% of her body, according to Jeremy Balan of Bloodhorse. She was taken by helicopter to UC San Diego Medical Center, where she was placed into a medically induced coma.
She was injured trying to rescue her six horses. Three perished and three are unaccounted for.
Trainer Cliff Sise, a regular on the Southern California circuit, said he saw about 10 horses die, including one of his fillies.