A wind-driven fire swept through stables at a rural Jurupa Valley property before dawn on Monday, Feb. 28, killing 15 horses in a tragedy that prompted the tight-knit equine community to rally behind the victims.
A goat also died, but eight horses were saved.
Emily Sanchez, 32, whose family leases the property in the 10300 block of 54th Street, said her husband suffered a burn injury to his arm in the fire that the Cal Fire/Riverside County Fire Department said was reported at 5:41 a.m.
Sanchez said she received an alert on her phone from an alarm system that monitors the movement of the horses. She went outside to find stables on fire and the flames spreading quickly in strong winds. Her husband and 3-year-old son evacuated the small residence on the back part of the property before it was consumed by fire.
Neighbors rushed over to assist. They were able to free some of the horses.
“We tried to save as many as we could. We tried to open the stables, but the fire beat us,” she said.
Sanchez said a Southern California Edison representative told her that the fire appeared to have started in a breaker box in one of the five corrals. Cal Fire has not announced a cause of the fire.
Sanchez and others ride the horses as well as exercise them in an arena on the property in an area of the Mira Loma neighborhood that’s still untouched by commercial development. The properties are on large lots — some with livestock — and the streets are patched and rutted and lack sidewalks.
Sanchez grew up riding horses in West Covina and Bloomington before moving to the property in the Mira Loma area.
There’s “so much love for them that you consider them part of your family,” she said.
As Sanchez spoke Monday afternoon, crews using construction equipment scooped up the carcasses and loaded them into a truck for disposal.
It’s “not only painful, it was heartbreaking,” she said.
People had already donated clothes, toiletries and other items by the afternoon.
“We’ve received so much love from the community. It goes to show everybody in the horse community shares the same pain,” Sanchez said.
Riverside County Animal Services sent six officers to assist, spokesman John Welsh said.