On Thursday, the devastating wildfires in Southern California prompted an emergency rescue effort to evacuate horses at the San Luis Rey Downs Training Center. Now, reports are coming in regarding the status of those horses and the people who put their lives on the line to rescue them.
The Lilac Fire hit the facility hard, destroying buildings and creating panic for the frightened horses. As rescuers worked to free as many of the more than 450 horses as possible, trainer Martine Bellocq suffered second- and third-degree burns over 50 percent of her body. She was airlifted to a UC San Diego Medical Center and placed in a medically induced coma, according to the San Diego Tribune..
Meanwhile, rescuers rushed to get the horses to safety. Leonel Tapia, one of the rescue workers, posted multiple live videos showing the chaotic scene (see below).
Concerned rescuers scrambled to round up the horses, many of them having escaped from enclosures. When the fire hit the facility, the horses were pushed from the barns to run free.
“My god, my row (of stalls),” Tapia says in one video, as he works to quickly free dozens of horses.
Some of the animals didn’t know what to do, and in the confusion ran into peril.
When the conditions got too dangerous, Tapia can be heard in a video saying, “We have to leave. This place is going to burn up.”
When the danger from fire passed, and officials deemed it safe, rescuers returned to find that many horses had tragically died. At least 35 thoroughbreds are thought to have perished in the incident, according to the Tribune.
Surviving horses were loaded onto trailers and taken to the stables at Del Mar Fairgrounds.
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