‘It just can’t hap­pen again’

Thir­teen horses killed in On­tario barn fire; se­cond such tragedy in two weeks

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - CANADA - THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Thir­teen horses died in a barn fire in south­ern On­tario overnight Thurs­day — the se­cond such tragedy in the prov­ince in less than two weeks.

The horses were killed af­ter flames broke out in a barn on a pri­vate farm in Mount For­est, Ont., northwest of Guelph. The fire came just 11 days af­ter a dev­as­tat­ing blaze in Puslinch, Ont., in which 43 stan­dard­bred horses died.

“It just can’t hap­pen again. It’s just too much dam­age, too heart-wrench­ing,” Mount For­est fire chief Dave Guil­bault told The Cana­dian Press from the scene of the lat­est fire.

“To have two in less than two weeks’ time, I’m hop­ing it’s just an anom­aly and it’s not some­thing that’s go­ing to con­tinue. We are def­i­nitely go­ing to get to­gether with the Puslinch fire depart­ment and work as a team to see how we can get in­volved and get more fire aware­ness in th­ese farm­ing op­er­a­tions.”

A per­son who an­swered the tele­phone at the Mount For­est prop­erty early Fri­day said the horses who died in the barn fire were Ara­bian.

Guil­bault said only one horse man­aged to es­cape the fire, which be­gan at about 10 p.m. and was largely ex­tin­guished by early Fri­day morn­ing, al­though some hot spots re­mained.

About 50 fire­fight­ers re­sponded to the blaze. Some had ini­tially tried to en­ter the barn to help the an­i­mals but had to re­treat be­cause the sit­u­a­tion was too dan­ger­ous, Guil­bault said.

Fire­fight­ers also had to hold back farm staff from try­ing to rush into the build­ing.

“We had to con­trol them, we had fire­fight­ers deal­ing with them be­cause they wanted to go in the barn. It’s just a ter­ri­ble thing,” he said, adding that fire­fight­ers had to deal with a strong wind fan­ning the flames and cold, icy con­di­tions through the night.

One man

at

the

prop­erty, where the horses are both owned and boarded, was taken to hos­pi­tal to be treated for mi­nor smoke in­hala­tion and anx­i­ety, but has since been re­leased, Guil­bault said.

The blaze was con­tained to the barn, which par­tially col­lapsed, and fire­fight­ers put up a “wa­ter cur­tain” to stop flames from spread­ing to any other build­ings, Guil­bault said.

Al­though it was too early to say what caused the fire, Guil­bault said there is spec­u­la­tion that a trac­tor might have caught on fire.

The On­tario Fire Mar­shall’s of­fice was head­ing to the scene on Fri­day to be­ing its in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Guil­bault said he asked the of­fice to send the same in­ves­ti­ga­tors who were prob­ing the Puslinch blaze in case there might be sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween the two fires.

He noted that barns typ­i­cally don’t have sprin­klers or smoke alarms — and aren’t re­quired to — but sug­gested that changes may be needed.

“I’m not say­ing it should be sprin­klers, we’re not that far yet, but just more pub­lic education and more aware­ness in barns and on farms,” he said. “Once we have the cause, we’ll be able to com­pare the cause with Puslinch and try to get some con­sis­tency on our ap­proach for pub­lic education and preven­tion.”

The Jan. 4 fire at the Classy Lane Sta­bles in Puslinch has had a dev­as­tat­ing im­pact on the horse rac­ing com­mu­nity in south­ern On­tario.

Co-owner Jamie Mil­lier said the eco­nomic im­pact reached deep into the close-knit, horse­ori­ented com­mu­nity and that groomers, vet­eri­nar­i­ans, black­smiths and other pro­fes­sion­als in the in­dus­try would feel the ef­fects of the deaths for months to come.

Trainer Dan La­gace, who lost seven horses he had worked with, said the fire was more than just a pro­fes­sional catas­tro­phe — it was akin to los­ing mem­bers of a fam­ily.

CP PHOTO

Fire­fight­ers con­tinue to work on a barn fire in Mount For­est, Ont., Fri­day. At least 13 horses per­ished in the se­cond such tragedy to hit south­ern On­tario this month.

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