PUSLINCH, Ont.—A massive fire that gutted a barn and killed more than 40 racehorses inside has caused one of the most financially and emotionally devastating losses to rock the community, the local fire chief said today.
Steven Goode said officials in Puslinch still are in shock from the massive blaze that erupted at the Classy Lane Stables last night and only was subdued after the efforts of 50 firefighters from the town and surrounding cities.
The cause of the fire still is under investigation by the Ontario Fire Marshal’s Office and the exact financial impact still is being determined, but Goode said the scope of the loss already is apparent.
“We consider this a horse community and it is absolutely devastating,” Goode told a news conference.
The fire broke out shortly after 11 p.m. on a night when temperatures dipped as low as minus-20 C.
Goode said the fire first was reported by a neighbour who spotted the blaze at the barn located about 20 km south of Guelph.
Local crews responded quickly, but found the barn with at least 40 horses inside fully engulfed in flames once they arrived on scene, he noted.
The dozens of firefighters from Puslinch, Guelph, Cambridge, and Hamilton had to struggle with adverse conditions caused by the frigid temperatures, Goode said.
He added the wintry weather caused hose lines to keep freezing up and created challenging road conditions.
Goode declined to say exactly how many of the racehorses died in the fire, but described the fire as a “multi-million-dollar” blaze that is “the highest dollar loss that we’ve experienced in our township.”
Classy Lane co-owner Barb Miller previously estimated that about 43 of the standardbred racehorses housed at the barn died in the fire.
Miller’s husband and co-owner hastily was flying home to Canada from Florida to assess the damage, she added.
Miller said the horses traditionally raced at the Mohawk, Woodbine, and Flamboro Downs racetracks in southern Ontario.
The Classy Lane website says the facility opened in 2003 and has five barns that accommodate 222 horses.