As wildfires raged in nearby canyons, Fairplex Park in Pomona, Calif., became an emergency evacuation center for 90 horses forced from their homes.

At the request of the Los Angeles Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Fairplex opened its stable area Sept. 23 to the horses, most of them from San Dimas Canyon in the Glendora-Citrus area east of the Los Angeles County fairgrounds. Representing the California Horse Racing Board, track stewards approved the emergency measure to allow the unlicensed animals–most of them backyard pleasure horses–on the grounds while Fairplex’s race meet is in session.

“This year, we did have some space,” Fairplex racing manager George Bradvica said. “It was fortunate that we did and we were glad to be able to do what we could.”

Mostly owned by canyon residents, horses continued to arrive Sept. 24 as the fire burned out of control. As of late that night, only 8% of the fire had been contained with more than 18,000 acres scorched and 44 structures burned, according to fire officials.

On Sept. 24, the fire and heavy smoke in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains could be clearly seen by racegoers at Fairplex. The smoke cloud built in intensity as the day wore on and trainers complained that it was difficult to exercise their horses. Trainers at nearby Santa Anita Park in Arcadia also felt the impact of soot and ash in the air.

“It’s really been awful,” trainer Jenine Sahadi said at Santa Anita. “There’s been so much smoke, it’s hard to train.”

At Fairplex, trainers pitched in to make their emergency guests feel comfortable, Bradvica said. Several trainers donated water buckets and equipment. In addition, Angels, Citrus, and Feedplex donated food for the evacuees.

“It was great to see so many people here lend a helping hand,” he said.