As a horse training center in San Diego County caught fire, authorities declared the conditions unsafe and the horses were pushed from the stables and allowed to run free, causing confusion and panic as some of the animals bolted to the main track and others simply circled their fiery homes.
"There was so much smoke it was difficult to see," horse trainer Dan Durham told ABC News. "Some of the horses were turned loose so they could be safe. They were scattered around."
"Individuals risked their lives in efforts to free the horses from their stalls and herd them into the safer infield area and training track," Mike Marten, the public information officer of the California Horse Racing Board told Fox 5 San Diego.
After the danger passed, surviving horses were loaded onto trailers and taken to the stables at Del Mar Fairgrounds.
But by then, sadly upwards of 30 horses had died.
Trainer Brian Kozak said he saw several horses collapsed on the track and more dead in the barns.
“There’s a lot of dead horses,” he said Thursday. “A lot of them just didn’t get out of their stalls and got asphyxiated.”
Southern California has been ravaged by multiple wildfires this week. Over 200,000 people have been evacuated, and overall the fires have affected some 9.5 million people.