While 46 horses at the San Luis Rey Training Center perished in the Lula wildfire, many more were saved because of the gallant efforts of horsemen who opened the doors to their stalls setting the horses free. In the end, the fire destroyed eight barns at the training center, but most of the horses were able to be recovered and taken to the Del Mar. Over 250 horses were taken to Del Mar where they have shown no signs of problems from the fire. The horses are being housed alongside over 550 other horses that have been rescued across the burning state. Officials say that it is amazing how fast everyone has come together to help each other during this tragic time.
Trainer Walter Solis says that he and others at San Luis had been carefully monitoring the wildfire situation. They felt that the training facility was safe when winds suddenly caused the wildfire to head straight for the racetrack. He says that when the palm trees started sending burning embers down on the barns, he knew that all the horses had to be set loose quickly because of the speed that the barns would go up because of the hay and straw in them. Most of the horses that died refused to leave their stalls or tried to return to them.
Two trainers were seriously injured while trying to rescue horses. One was airlifted and placed in a medically-induced coma, but doctors are optimistic she will make a full recovery from the burns over 50 percent of her body.