The Fire that Brought the Escondido Community Together

As the City of Escondido celebrates its 130th anniversary this month, we reflect upon the history of the Escondido Humane Society, which merged with San Diego Humane Society in 2014. An incident that stands out is the fire of 2001, which shook the community to its core. Leslie Mogul, who served on the Escondido Humane Society’s Board of Directors from 2001 to 2009, was there that tragic night.

“We turned on the TV and saw on the news that the Escondido Humane Society building at Kit Carson Park was burning. My husband and I rushed to the humane society to help in any way we could,” said Mogul.

On the night of Jan. 20, 2001, an electrical fire burnt down the Escondido Humane Society and more than 100 animals tragically lost their lives.

An aerial view of the burned Escondido Humane Society.

“I remember vets were running into the building while it was still burning, trying to save the animals,” said Mogul.

A newspaper clipping showing RVT Denice Beeson rescuing a puppy from the building.

Mogul describes the days after the fire as an extremely emotional time as the public mourned the loss of animals and an Escondido landmark. However, the tragedy also brought the community together.

“One of the things I clearly remember is that kids from schools throughout San Diego County had fundraisers. And I remember firemen and kids standing outside of the burned building with piggy banks, collecting donations,” said Mogul.

The community truly came together to support the Escondido Humane Society in any way possible. At the time, Escondido Humane Society did not have a public relations representative, so Mogul volunteered to be the organization’s spokesperson during the aftermath of the fire. EHS worked closely with the City of Escondido to secure the space on Valley Parkway, where San Diego Humane Society’s Escondido Campus currently stands today. The new facility opened in 2003.

Escondido Humane Society board members and Mayor of Escondido Lori Holt Pfeiler break ground at the site of the new Escondido Humane Society.

“We brought that building back to life, along with the community. We didn’t realize how powerful the sentiment was for the animals,” said Mogul.

Mogul spent nine years on Escondido Humane Society’s Board of Directors. She recalled that very few animals were adopted from the shelter in the early 2000’s.

”The euthanasia rates were really high. During the economic downturn, people would move out of their homes in the middle of the night and leave their animals behind,” said Mogul.

Mogul moved to Orange County in 2009, but has always had a special place in her heart for the animals in Escondido. After almost 10 years, she visited San Diego Humane Society’s Escondido Campus in late September and was amazed at how far the organization has come since that tragic fire nearly two decades ago.

Leslie Mogul visits San Diego Humane Society’s Escondido Campus after almost 10 years.

“I am really pleased to see San Diego Humane Society adding so many different education programs and carrying on a great tradition of caring for the animals,” said Mogul.

We are so grateful to provide animal services to a compassionate community who cares deeply for its animals and comes together during times of adversity. It truly takes the entire community to protect animals and create a more humane San Diego.