Equine death toll at 46 as fires sweep California

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A horse undergoing treatment for burns in California. © San Luis Rey Equine Hospital
A horse undergoing treatment for burns in California. © San Luis Rey Equine Hospital

Dozens of horses were let loose to escape wildfires threatening the San Luis Rey Downs training centre in California, with the death toll from the Lilac Fire in the state climbing to 46 horses.

Nearly 500 horses, mostly thoroughbreds, were stabled at the Bonsall training center in San Diego county, and some of those who were let loose to flee escaped into the hills over a downed fence. Many are still unaccounted for.

The racing and equestrian communities have rallied to help those affected by the Lilac Fire in the past week, with more than 800 horses evacuated from out of the fire’s path evacuated to the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

Horses run to safety as smoke engulfs them during the Lilac Fire in California.
Horses run to safety as smoke engulfs them during the Lilac Fire in California. © San Diego county

In only two days a crowdfunding campaign raised more than $550,000 to a relief effort for the San Luis Rey Training Center. Many items of clothing, equipment and feed have been donated, and studs are donating services to the cause. Coolmore is auctioning off a mating to Uncle Mo, whose stud fee is normally $125,000. Taylor Made is doing the same with California Chrome, who usually stands at $40,000.

Veterinarians are working to save horses who sustained burns and smoke inhalation in the fires that swept California last week.
Veterinarians are working to save horses who sustained burns and smoke inhalation in the fires that swept California last week. © San Luis Rey Equine Hospital

Some 29 horses who were trapped in locked stables perished in the Creek fire in Sylmar in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles. Padlocks on the stable doors made it difficult for firefighters to free the horses, but they broke down 10 stalls before the barn’s roof collapsed.

County officials said: “This event serves as a tragic reminder for those who keep horses to develop actionable evacuation plans to reduce loss and injury.

“Horse stalls should never be padlocked or otherwise made inaccessible.”

Horses are being treated for burns and smoke inhalation at several veterinary clinics.

The affected areas are shown here.

» How you can help after the fire

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