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‘Brutal’ fire leaves 12 horses dead, destroys boarding barn

Barn destroyed - A Mount Forest barn was destroyed and 12 horses perished in a devastating fire on Jan. 14. ABOVE: Firefighters got the call at 10pm that night but could not enter the barn safely to save the horses.  photo by Jonathan Karn. Owners Doris and Robert Woolner were able to free one of the horses when they first discovered the fire. BELOW: Firefighters remained on the scene of the fire well into the following day to monitor the still-smouldering remains of the barn.  photo by Patrick Raftis

‘Brutal’ fire leaves 12 horses dead, destroys boarding barn

by Olivia Rutt

MOUNT FOREST - Twelve horses are dead after a barn fire just west of Mount Forest last week.

“It was brutal,” said Wellington North Fire Chief Dave Guilbault.

The department received the call at 10:07pm on Jan. 14 for a fully involved barn fire with horses trapped, at Highway 89 near Sligo Road outside of Mount Forest.

“When we arrived ... we tried to gain entry (to rescue the horses) but it was too dangerous,” Guilbault said.

“We got into the front doors a little bit but … I wouldn’t allow the firefighters in; we couldn’t put them at risk.”

One of the 13 trapped Arabian horses was saved by owner Doris Woolner, said Debbie Bradbury, Woolner’s sister-in-law, who spoke on behalf of the family.

Bradbury said Doris heard a loud bang at around 10pm and when she and her husband Robert Woolner looked outside, they saw smoke coming from the barn.

“Doris ran out first in her pajamas and bare feet and (Robert) followed and they tried to open all the stalls and get the horses out, but they wouldn’t cooperate; they were scared,” said Bradbury.

Seven of the 13 horses were owned by the Woolners, while the rest were boarded, including the horse that survived.

Robert was taken to the hospital as a precaution with smoke inhalation and anxiety due to the fire, said Guilbault.

Robert was worse off  than Doris “because he went to the back area (of the barn) and he is still in the hospital,” Bradbury said the day after the fire.

Guilbault estimated the fire damages at $500,000.

“Obviously that could go higher depending on the value of the horses,” he said.

Well over 50 firefighters were on the scene from the Wellington North, West Grey and Minto departments, contributing tankers and pumper trucks.

With over eight tankers at the scene, Guilbault said, “You can appreciate the magnitude and we needed water, there’s no hydrants out here.”

Guilbault said the Ontario fire marshal’s Office has been called in to investigate the cause of the fire.

Tragic two weeks

The Mount Forest fire comes just 10 days after a barn fire left 43 horses dead in Puslinch Township. The Jan. 4 fire at Classy Lane Stables and Training Centre led to an outpouring of support from the wider community after the devastating loss.


January 22, 2016


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