The day after the Lilac Fire ripped through the barn area at San Luis Rey Downs thoroughbred racehorse training center in Bonsall, causing a horrific scene of death and displacement, the Southern California racing community spent Friday trying to band together to help those who did and didn’t survive the tragedy.

With the sunlight of Friday morning, came the emergence of a rising death toll of thoroughbred racehorses and the stories of the brave horsemen and women who tried to save them.

“It’s dumbfounding,” said trainer Scott Hansen, who lost half his stable in the fire. “You just never think it would ever happen. Those barns are all metal and they still caught fire. I lost 15 horses and I’ve got 15 left. It hasn’t really sunk in. Some of my favorite horses died. I’m trying not to dwell on it. One minute I get choked up and the next I’m trying to get on with business as usual. You try to fix everything and move forward.”

On Friday, Del Mar racetrack became the rallying point of efforts to get aid to those who needed it and to house hundreds of racehorses who were set loose as a last-ditch attempt to save their lives. Tim Ritvo, the president of The Stronach Group, which owns Santa Anita Park, estimated the death toll to be about 40 horses. More than 800 rescued horses are now being housed at Del Mar.The human toll is also proving to be costly. Trainers Joe Herrick and Martine Bellocq were hospitalized with burns as of Friday afternoon. Several track workers are now without housing and have lost their possessions.

Supplies ranging from hay and buckets for the displaced horses to toiletries, food and clothing for their caretakers flooded into Del Mar on Friday. Los Alamitos Racecourse canceled its eight-race card scheduled for Friday afternoon, but will resume with its thoroughbred meet on Saturday.

“I got here at 6 a.m. and there’s been a line out the stable gate, all the way around the corner of people waiting to come in and donate, food, drinks, sleeping bags, everything,” said Del Mar Safety Steward Luis Juaregui, who estimated that 200-300 volunteers showed up. “And still in the afternoon, there was 150 people helping out and unloading stuff. It’s amazing.”

Then Jauregui got emotional before adding: “This is horse racing’s wake-up call to realize how good we are around each other. They come together. Owners, trainers and jockeys who compete against each other came together asking if they could help each other.”

Meanwhile, across social media, videos of track workers freeing horses from burning barns went viral. As did numerous charity accounts set up to help those who lived at the track and have now lost their living quarters and possessions. One charity account raised over $300,000 in mere hours. Elsewhere, frantic owners and trainers also took to Twitter and Facebook trying to find their lost horses.

Thoroughbred racehorses are often identified by a tattoo on their inner lip. Some also have their name carved into the halters they wear. After being set loose from their barns, many escaped into the hills around San Luis Rey. Several stories of local residents corralling and housing loose racehorses have emerged.

“People were coming from the ranches all around and took our horses in,” Hansen said. “We had to track them all down. But these little small farms went out there and picked them up and fed them.

“It’s pretty amazing in that respect how everybody rallied around. It seems like in this country you don’t realize the good in people until something bad happens.”

It was still far too early on Friday for those affected to figure out what’s next. Hansen is confident that San Luis Rey will reopen in due time. He also said that some of the horses will be given time off while others will be back in training. Del Mar announced that its track will be open for jogging on Saturday morning.

As for those who rely on racehorses to earn a living, be that either through purse money from winning races or the care that goes on behind the scenes, the future is a little less clear.

Jockey Iggy Puglisi would travel to San Luis Rey Downs from his home in Duarte two or three times a week to work horses for Hansen and a couple of other trainers. Not only did it bring in immediate pay but also led to future opportunities to ride those horses in the afternoon for bigger money. But now all of that is up in the air for the time being.

“My first thought isn’t about what I’m going to do about my job,” Puglisi said. “My first thoughts were about the horses. I didn’t think about “Well now I don’t have that job until later on.” It was more about what I can do to help. I’m worried about myself last compared to what the people that live there are going through.

“So now all of that becomes a big concern. I’m an animal lover. It could have been goats and I would have been pretty devastated, but being animals that I have a personal relationship or attachment to, there’s no word other than heartbroken that I can use. There’s nothing that I could come up with that would explain the feeling.”