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Thoroughbred Horses Killed In California Wildfire


Here in Southern California, wildfires continue to burn. In the path of one of them near San Diego are some stables - not just any stables but the San Luis Rey Downs training center for thoroughbreds - race horses - hundreds of them. As the flames approached, owners and stablehands were frantic. They threw open barn doors and told horses to run.



That's the sound of horses running, and that's from the San Diego Union-Tribune website. And the voice you'll hear next is Dan Dunham. He's a horse trainer. He was at the stables yesterday, and he told us what it was like trying to rush his horses out.

DAN DUNHAM: The wind was blowing real hard, and there just wasn't any time to do anything but turn them loose and hope they could find a safe place. And there were horses running loose, you know, on the racetrack and fields nearby. And yeah, I think most were safe.

KELLY: Most were safe, but we're talking hundreds of horses who were stabled at this facility.

DUNHAM: Yeah. There was 400 and some horses there, and there were a lot of trailers out there getting them out of there, some people leading them down the road and, you know, getting them out as quick as we could. There was people from the track. And people from all over the area came in with trailers - a lot of trailers there.

KELLY: Can you just walk us through what that moment was like when you realized, we're out of time?

DUNHAM: It was pretty nerve-wracking. The wind was real strong, real strong. So there really wasn't any time. You saw a small fire at the end of the barn, and pretty soon, half the barn was going up. And some of the horses - you know, they're used to being in their stalls, and they're a little afraid to come out, too, so - you know, just getting turned loose like that. So we had to make sure they'd get out of that, out of the barn in time.

KELLY: Did they all make it out of the barn in time?

DUNHAM: I hope so. I don't know if all the horses made it or not. I know a lot of them did. I hope they did.

KELLY: Can you tell me exactly where you are now, what you're out doing?

DUNHAM: We're out looking, trying to find the horses. A lot of people came with trailers, and they're just, you know, taking them off to different places. So now we're checking all the different places, trying to find - everybody's out trying to find their horses. And it's difficult - got to go from place to place and hope you find them.

KELLY: Are these animals that you knew by name, you were looking after?

DUNHAM: Oh, absolutely, yeah, yeah. Trainers are close to their horses. That's what we do seven days a week. So yeah, you hate to see stuff like that happen. But you know, that's what we do every day. We know our horses real well.

KELLY: How many horses do you look after?

DUNHAM: We had 25.

KELLY: And have you been able to account for them all?

DUNHAM: Not all of them. We've got a little over half now, and I'm headed back in the track to take another look around, see if any more of them have turned up.

KELLY: And the search continues. Dan Dunham - he's a trainer at the San Luis Rey Downs horse training facility. Thanks so much for sharing the story of what's going on out there. We wish you luck.

DUNHAM: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.