A worker at the San Luis Rey Training center in San Diego’s North County was trampled by several horses as he tried to extinguish flames raging through a stable during the height of last week’s Lilac Fire.
Les Baker, 66, is an outrider at the center. He suffered nine broken ribs, facial lacerations and bruises all over his body amid the wind-driven blaze that destroyed properties and killed horses in the rural area known for its ranches.
“I remember seeing the first one, a Chestnut horse, that’s about all I remember other than one stepping on me, on my chest. I thought, ‘This is going to hurt for a while,’” Baker told NBC 7 Wednesday, as he continued to recover.
Baker was trying desperately to save his two horses in a stable where hay and straw caught on fire. He was using a garden hose.
“And I just started throwing water into the stalls in front of my two stalls because they were already on fire, and I was losing that battle,” he recounted.
Baker finally made the decision to get out, walking through thick black smoke, and that’s when he heard the thundering sound of spooked horses bearing down on him, trying to flee the flames.
“You don’t know where they’re at, or when they’re going to get to you, you just know they’re going to be there,” said Baker.
Baker figures he was trampled by four or more horses. And there was more devastating news as he tried to get to his feet: one of his horses was killed.
Fortunately, his second horse survived after being rescued by volunteers. The horse is now stabled in Pauma Valley.
A GoFundMe page has now been set up on Baker’s behalf to help replace personal belongings lost in the fire. As of Wednesday afternoon, the page had raised more than $4,600.
Baker said he’s extremely grateful for the support from friends he never knew he had. To donate, click here.
As of Wednesday morning, Cal Fire officials said the 4,100-acre Lilac Fire was 95 percent contained.