The Herald Bulletin

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April 12, 2010

Stable fire kills at least 14 horses

Retired racehorses and their young die

CHESTERFIELD, Ind. — At least 14 horses died as a wind-swept fire destroyed a stable Monday morning in southeastern Madison County.

“I’m devastated right now,” wept Joyce Baker, owner and manager of Indiana Stallion Station, 4967 E. 100S, as an army of firefighters doused the charred ruins of a stable where four mares and their weanlings perished. Some of the offspring were only about one month old.  

A few horses that made it out of the burning stable suffered severe burns and were later euthanized, witnesses said. The horses that died included retired racing thoroughbreds and quarter horses that had been brought to the stables to breed.

“It’s heartbreaking,” said Baker, surrounded by tearful family members who worked with the animals on the Union Township farm.

Three stable workers were transported to Saint John’s Medical Center and treated for smoke inhalation, said Chesterfield-Union Township Fire Chief Todd Huffer.

Lee Whiteman, Baker’s brother and farrier at the stable, said “the boys that work here did their best to get (horses) out.” He said about 20 horses housed in the stable were saved from the fire. “We got out as many as we could.”

Whiteman said some of the horses were nearly paralyzed by the sight of the stable fire, and that rescuers worked to pull the horses out until firefighters ordered them to evacuate the pole-barn-style stable.

“I’m thankful for all our friends that came to help, and I’m thankful for all the fire departments that are here,” he said.

Surveying the smoldering stable a short time later, Whiteman shook his head. “Unbelievable,” he sighed.  

There are two stable buildings on the farm; Whiteman said another stable that houses stud horses was undamaged.

Bill Whiteman, father of Joyce Baker and Lee Whiteman, lives at the home on the farm and said that around 9:30 to 10 a.m., a stable worker ran to the house and said to call the fire department.

Bill Whiteman said the fire appeared to start in either a supply area or a shop connected to the east side of the stable, which Huffer confirmed. A strong wind quickly whipped the fire into the stable area. “There was nothing they could do about it,” Whiteman said.

He said many of the horses stabled on the farm are owned by people from Florida, California, New York and Kentucky.

“We have kids here every night working hard, getting them ready for the shows,” Bill Whiteman said.

Lee Whiteman said his daughter Morgan’s horse was among those that died. He said the 14-year-old barrel-riding horse had been bottle-fed after its mother died at birth.

“We named her Miracle,” he said. “Anytime that you walked into the stable ... she kind of greeted you.”

Chesterfield-Union Township fire crews responded to the fire and called for mutual aid from all available units. Crews set up a portable water dump tank that conveyed water from tanker trucks to a ladder truck and engines that battled the fire for hours. Fire crews cleared the scene at 3:54 p.m.

At the height of the fire, more than 18 emergency vehicles were on site.

Assisting departments included fire and emergency rescue crews from Adams and Richland townships in Madison County; Salem Township-Daleville and Yorktown in Delaware County; and Middletown in Henry County. Madison County Sheriff’s Department, Madison County Emergency Management Agency and Middletown police units also responded.

Huffer praised the response. “We rely heavily on our neighboring departments,” he said. He said the cause of the fire is undetermined.

On Monday evening, Baker said one of the horses lost in the fire was a mare named Lizzie that was going to be her barrel-riding horse.

“The horses, they became part of your family,” she said. “It hurts.”

Contact Dave Stafford: 648-4250,


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