Machowsky said other trainers related that it was hard to navigate around the property as a result of limited visibility, while fire trucks attempted to stake out various barns in an attempt to control the blazes. The wind-whipped blaze erupted Thursday afternoon and authorities say it's moving dangerously fast. Images from local San Diego County news stations and Twitter posts from horsemen showed videos of horses running freely on the track and in the stable area as smoke and flames engulfed the surrounding areas. The "Santa Ana Wildfire Threat Index" categorizes fire risk.
The fire started east of San Luis Rey Downs, and quickly spread to the west, according to media reports. The Lilac Fire was zero percent contained late Thursday afternoon and had destroyed 20 structures.
The Liberty Fire was one of six affecting the region and prompting at least 160,000 people to flee their homes.
Cal Fire Deputy Chief Dave Nissen said 700 firefighters were were on the scene, along with firefighting helicopters, and additional aircraft from the Navy and Marines would be available Friday morning.
The evacuations include a mobile home park, a golf course country club and two schools.
An area immediately north of the training center was ordered evacuated before 2 p.m. A Red Flag warning was in effect for Southern California thanks to high winds, dry vegetation and low humidity.
The Del Mar Fairgrounds was opened as an evacuation center for livestock, and 130 animals had been brought to the facility as of around 5 p.m. County officials urged livestock owners to evacuate their animals well ahead of time.
The incident, which has been named the Lilac fire, started off of South Interstate 15, and is being blown northwest away from the freeway toward Sullivan Middle School and State Route 76.