Wildfires continued Oct. 23 to threaten homes and horse farms in Southern California, particularly in San Diego County.
Scoop Vessels’ Vessels Stallion Farm is among the facilities that have taken in evacuated people and horses, even while a new fire has broken out just east of the farm near Bonsall, Calif. Del Mar racetrack has taken in evacuees when the fires, and its barn area was full by Oct. 22, with 2,000 horses and livestock.
“We’ve taken in about 300 head,” Vessels said by cell phone mid-Tuesday morning. “We had people at the golf course and sleeping in the clubhouse parking lot. Some of them even slept under their trucks.”
Vessels opened the farm to evacuees when fires raged through nearby Fallbrook, but he was concerned that the new fire could threaten the farm.
“The winds are blowing in this direction, and I think it’s far away at this point,” Vessels said. “We’ll know more by this afternoon. The good thing is that we’re surrounded by open land. We’ve had the sprinklers on, and I think the winds are supposed to die down later today. But we’ve got a lot of smoke and ash, which we didn’t have yesterday.”
Vessels’ employees have all pitched in to help.
“We’ve got a lot of volunteers feeding, and it’s like a big community here,” Vessels said. “But the air quality is poor. Everyone’s got their masks on.”
Strong Santa Ana winds, which often threaten Southern California this time of year, have fanned the flames of the fires. More than 500,000 residents have been evacuated and about 1,000 homes have been destroyed in San Diego County alone, according to several news services.
The California Thoroughbred Breeders Association reported that the main residence was lost at Donald and Karen Cohn’s Ballena Vista Farm near Ramona, Calif., but that the barns, paddocks, and covered paddocks were unharmed. All of the Ballena Vista horses, which were not evacuated, are safe.
The fires are threatening nearly 1,200 homes in Rancho Santa Fe near Del Mar. Rancho Bernardo and Poway, inland communities in San Diego County, have been hit very hard.
Rollin W. Baugh, who runs Baugh International bloodstock agency and is a director of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, lives in Rancho Santa Fe. He and his wife, Bonnie, evacuated Monday afternoon along with their pets.
“Rancho Santa Fe is totally evacuated,” he said by cell phone midday Oct. 23. “I understand three houses have burned on the south side.”
Rancho Santa Fe is home to many in the Thoroughbred industry, including Martin and Pam Wygod and Dr. Jack Robbins.
While Del Mar’s barn area is full, the racetrack is reportedly still taking in people and domestic pets.
Los Alamitos Race Course in Orange County, north of San Diego in Cypress, announced Tuesday morning that it has 180 temporary stalls available for evacuated horses. They are working with the Orange County Animal Care Center, and evacuated horses may enter through the Katella Avenue entrance.
Jerry McMahon, president and general manager of Barretts Equine Ltd., said that Fairplex Park in Pomona, where Barretts is located, is also accepting horses. The Barretts sale barns have been opened early for horses slated to sell in its Oct. 29-30 mixed sale.
“Fairplex has a couple hundred stalls that it is making available,” McMahon said Tuesday morning. “We’re accepting sale horses early. The only question is whether people can get out.”
San Diego County officials recommended that people remain home from work on Tuesday to keep the roads free for firefighters and evacuees. California officials announced midday that more than 1,200 homes had been destroyed in the state.
“Three things have come together–very dry areas, very hot weather, and a lot of wind,” said California’s Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. “That makes a perfect storm for fires.”