DEL MAR, Calif. – Over 350 horses remained in the stables at Del Mar Racetrack Tuesday following the destructive Lilac Fire that burned over 100 buildings, including San Luis Rey Training Center in Bonsall.
The Lilac Fire started Thursday at 11:15 a.m. near Interstate 15 and state Route 76. Due to Santa Ana winds, the wildfire grew to 4,100 acres in less than 24 hours.
As the fire broke out, the San Luis Rey Training Center was in immediate danger. The fast-moving flames moved onto the property and trainers said they had to make the decision to release many of the horses or let them die in the burning stalls.
San Diego County Animal Services director Dan DeSousa asked the Del Mar Fairgrounds to open for evacuated horses and large livestock, and it immediately opened its stables.
Over 900 horses from the evacuated areas of North County were taken to Del Mar and two other shelters over the weekend.
Authorities lifted evacuation orders Sunday.
As of Tuesday at noon, 260 thoroughbreds and over 100 other horses were still at the Del Mar facility. Officials said the thoroughbreds will stay at Del Mar indefinitely due to the destruction at the San Luis Rey Training Center. The other horses will likely return home soon.
The plan to rebuild the San Luis Rey Training Center is underway. Officials expect to room for 100 to 150 horses on a limited basis at first. Then, they plan to rebuild and fully open in eight months with 450 to 500 horses – their usual population.
Around 45 horses died as a result of the Lilac Fire, according to officials.
The state board that oversees the Del Mar Racetrack has a regularly scheduled meeting happening Tuesday at 1:30 p.m.
As of Tuesday morning, firefighters had 92 percent containment of the Lilac Fire. They expected to have full containment by next week.