Last winter saw a lot of welcome rain in drought-parched Southern California. The result was lots of lush, green growth in the spring, with gorgeous wildflowers and rejuvenated trees coming out of a years-long slumber.

That’s the downside, too. The fall piper showed up for payment, and now we have brush. Very dry, very abundant brush. You probably know it as “kindling”.

It just takes a spark. A car dragging a muffler; some asshole throwing a lit cigarette out a window; a fire-bug with a twisted agenda….

With all of this brush and only 3% humidity, it doesn’t take a whole lot.

We live in horse country near a town called Lakeside, about 20 miles due east of San Diego. We keep horses and cats, so when the Santa Ana winds picked up last week, we packed our evac kit and cleaned up the defensible space around our house. Otherwise, we just keep our eyes (and noses) peeled for smoke.

Yesterday, our horse community lost at least 25 thoroughbreds in Bonsall, about 40 crow-fly miles from our place. The fire went through Bonsall very, very fast, fueled by dry brush and the Santa Anas.

My friend, Amanda Quiñones, and I joined other volunteers last night at the Del Mar Racetrack, which graciously opened their facilities (as is their custom) to house the 700+ horse refugees. By 2:00 AM, most of the horses were bedded down, watered, and fed, so Amanda and I came home to rest and head back again today.

Photo by Steve Walsh

As we turned into my road, I saw a brush fire about a half mile from my house. Just as I was about to call 911, Amanda yelped that we had half the Lakeside fire department on our tail!

So I called my fiancé instead and told him to get the cats in their carriers and get ready to evacuate.

He didn’t even pause: “Got it,” he said, and then hung up.

Gotta love that IDF training–no fuss, no muss! (A few minutes later, I discovered when I got home that all five cats had already been dutifully herded into a bathroom, with nary a scratch on Our Fair Hero, Rony. The cats should be speaking to him again in a few months.)

We got some sleep last night, thanks to our Lakeside firefighters, who knocked that fire down in no time, flat.

We are so very grateful, lads—keep up the great work and stay safe!!!

Today, we are monitoring a new brushfire about 20 miles east of us, so I’ve put off heading to Del Mar until this evening when the winds are supposed to die down. We’ll let some of the city-folk help out for a bit.

In the meantime, us country-folk and our horses are hunkered down and haltered up.

Here are a few ways you can help out:


  • Carter’s Hay & Grain: Carter’s brought over a huge load of hay and shavings yesterday, and are doing a repeat today. They are accepting credit card donations at (619) 561-0631
  • The Del Mar Thoroughbred Club is accepting cash donations here
  • Red Cross: call 1-800-Red-Cross or text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation
  • Del Mar direct donations (please use the East Stable Gate (first gate off of Jimmy Durante Boulevard) to drop off donations)

Horses need:

  • Muck buckets and pitchforks
  • Shavings
  • Feed, alfalfa, Timothy, and Bermuda
  • Lead ropes and halters
  • Blankets
  • Hooks/clips

People need:

  • Air mattresses
  • Clothes
  • Toiletries
  • Blankets and bedding
  • Gloves


  • Del Mar needs volunteers; call 858-755-1161 to see what’s needed now.
  • 2-1-1 San Diego—the county’s public hotline during emergencies—needs call centre volunteers. To register for a shift, go to Hands-On San Diego or call 858-300-1269.
  • Red Cross volunteering


[mc4wp_form id=”3066″]