Tragic fire

More than 40 race­horses die in On­tario stable fire

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - PROVINCE -

More than 40 race­horses die in On­tario stable fire

The deaths of 43 race­horses in a mas­sive barn fire is more than just a pro­fes­sional catas­tro­phe – it’s akin to los­ing mem­bers of a fam­ily, one trainer said Tues­day.

Dan La­gace was work­ing with seven horses that were be­ing housed at the Classy Lane Sta­bles in the southern On­tario town of Puslinch, about 20 kilo­me­tres south of Guelph. All of his an­i­mals and three dozen oth­ers per­ished Mon­day night in a blaze that could only be sub­dued through the ef­forts of 50 fire­fight­ers from mul­ti­ple com­mu­ni­ties.

La­gace said he got word of the fire around 11 p.m. Mon­day – around the same time fire of­fi­cials said the blaze was re­ported by a neigh­bour.

He rushed to the scene from his home in nearby Cam­bridge, but said he could only stand help­lessly by as the build­ing con­tain­ing both his liveli­hood and loved ones was en­gulfed in flames.

“It’s al­most like los­ing a child. Th­ese horses, they’re ev­ery part of your life,” the 38-year-old said. “On Christ­mas morn­ing, when other peo­ple are open­ing gifts with their kids and stuff like that, we’re out at the farm making sure they’re taken care of first.”

La­gace said the blaze also rep­re­sents a dev­as­tat­ing pro­fes­sional set­back. He said he has vir­tu­ally noth­ing left, since equip­ment amassed over years was also de­stroyed in the fire.

The eco­nomic im­pact ex­tends well into the closeknit, horse­ori­ented com­mu­nity, said Classy Lane co-owner Jamie Mil­lier.

Groomers, vet­eri­nar­i­ans, black­smiths and other pro­fes­sion­als in­volved in the in­dus­try will be feel­ing the ef­fects of the equine deaths for months to come, he said.

Mil­lier had been va­ca­tion­ing in Florida when he got word of the fire and hastily flew back to Canada to sur­vey the dam­age. De­spite the ad­vance warn­ing, he said he can still barely take it in.

“I’m just wait­ing to wake up,” he said. “It’s not real. It’s a dream. You don’t ex­pect some­thing like this to really hap­pen to you.”

Mil­lier said 43 horses were in the barn when the fire broke out. Grief over what’s be­ing de­scribed as a mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar fire is not just con­fined to the own­ers and train­ers, ac­cord­ing to Puslinch’s fire chief.

Steven Goode said the com­mu­nity is now try­ing to process one of the most sig­nif­i­cant emo­tional and fi­nan­cial losses in its history as of­fi­cials with the On­tario Fire Mar­shal’s Of­fice launch an in­ves­ti­ga­tion to de­ter­mine its cause.

The fire broke out on a night when tem­per­a­tures dipped as low as -20 C.

Nei­ther La­gace nor fel­low trainer Ben Wal­lace had any safety con­cerns about the fa­cil­ity be­fore the fire broke out.

“It’s a state-of-the-art fa­cil­ity,” said Wal­lace, who lost 17 horses in the blaze. “It’s owned by great peo­ple. They were dili­gent and did ev­ery­thing that cer­tainly I felt was nec­es­sary.”

Wal­lace’s losses in­clude a horse that had al­ready earned more than $1 mil­lion dur­ing his rac­ing ca­reer.

Six-year-old pacer Ap­pren­tice Hanover had placed 10th in the North Amer­ica Cup in 2013, a race for the top three-yearolds in his cat­e­gory around the world.

Jody Jamieson, who drove Ap­pren­tice Hanover for the ma­jor­ity of his races, said he’s “ab­so­lutely dev­as­tated.”

“It may be a lit­tle bit self­ish of me at this point but he’s been, if not the best, one of the best horses that I’ve been driv­ing for the last three years,” Jamieson said.

“Ap­pren­tice Hanover was the type of horse you dream of,” he said. “Just think­ing about it here now, I get a lit­tle choked up. He just didn’t de­serve this demise, none of them did.”

The Classy Lane web­site says the fa­cil­ity opened in 2003 and has five barns that ac­com­mo­date 222 horses.

By Tues­day af­ter­noon, sev­eral crowd­sourc­ing cam­paigns had be­gun to help raise money for those im­pacted by the fire.

CP PHOTO

Fire­fight­ers work to bring a blaze un­der con­trol at the Classy Lane Sta­bles, in Puslinch, Ont., on Tues­day.

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