10/21/2007 11:00PM

Fires threaten California farms

EmailWildfires pushed along by the Santa Ana winds in California have imperiled a number of Thoroughbred farms in the San Diego area and prompted the evacuation of the entire town of Ramona.

Del Mar Racetrack near San Diego was serving as an evacuation facility for people and horses, but its barn area was full up with 1,200 horses on Monday and people are "pouring in" to the racetrack, said the Del Mar County Fair's deputy general manager, Chana Mannen.

Among the farms in the area are Golden Eagle and Ballena Vista, both in Ramona, and E.A. Ranches in Santa Ysabel. No one answered phone calls Monday at either Ballena Vista or E.A. Ranches, but Golden Eagle manager Janine McCullough said that all of the farm's horses were safe and that the fire had "blown through" the area and moved past them.

McCullough said Golden Eagle was able to evacuate the stallion Salt Lake and weanlings newly arrived from Kentucky to another farm west of Ramona, but had to leave the rest of Golden Eagle's horses at the Ramona property.

"We're covered in soot, but Salt Lake is safe and we haven't lost any horses," said McCullough. "The farm did well, but the town of Ramona did not."

McCullough said the blaze had destroyed numerous houses and buildings in the small town.

McCullough said emergency authorities had given the farm 20 minutes to evacuate on Sunday. Golden Eagle owner Larry Mabee and farm staff moved all the horses out of barns and outer pastures and into the central part of the farm, where they escaped harm. Mabee, McCullough, and other workers left the farm at about 6:30 p.m. Sunday, but were unable to exit the area and spent the night with firefighters.

McCullough said that fencing at Ballena Vista was "pretty torn up" but that she knew no other details from that farm, owned by Donald and Karen Cohn. The farm stands Beau Genius, Deputy Commander, and Sea of Secrets.

McCullough said she had tried to reach Ernest Auerbach's E.A. Ranches Monday morning to offer aid but was stopped by authorities before she could reach the farm.

E.A. Ranches stands Defy Logic, Game Plan, Indian Country, Soul of the Matter, and Turkoman.

Officials at Del Mar were referring horse owners on to the Desert Horse Park in Thermal, Calif. The Desert Horse Park (760-399-9200) is about 150 miles from Del Mar.

"There is nowhere else available in San Diego County or Orange County," said the Del Mar County Fair's deputy general manager, Chana Mannen.