Fireman leads horse from blazing barn

December 16, 2009

by Neil Clarkson

Appaloosa mare Pearl was the last remaining horse in a three-storey barn ablaze in Pennsylvania. Burning embers rained down in her smoke-filled stall as firefighters played water on the blaze in a bid to control it.

The North Strabane Fire Department was put in charge of large animal rescue and they were not about to let Pearl down.

Welsh-born firefighter Paul Williams strode into her stall, placed a rope around her neck, and led her to safety.

Firefighters from four departments were called to the Greenmor Commons Equestrian Centre in Cecil Township, Washington County, last night.

Firefighter Paul Williams, who saved Pearl from a barn fire last night. © Mark Grimm

People already at the centre had managed to evacuate about 10 horses from the main stalls, but Pearl, occupying a stall with a different outside entrance, had refused to budge.

The door was open but Pearl stood her ground amid the embers and smoke, as flames licked her stall.

Remarkably, Williams, a farrier and standardbred trainer, knew Pearl. He had previously been her farrier.

"It was well ablaze when we got there," Williams told Horsetalk.

"She was the only one they couldn't get out," he said. "She was in a stall at the back of the barn. The door was open but she wouldn't move."

What saved her, he said, was the flow of water from the firemen trying to beat back the blaze. Pearl ended up saturated and standing in about 30 centimetres of water.

"The embers and flames were going out when they hit her."

It was, he said, a split-second decision to go in, opting not to wear breathing apparatus because of the risk of spooking Pearl even more.

With members of the Northern Strabane red team watching his back, as the risk of building collapse grew even greater, Williams walked in, placed a rope around her neck, and led her from the blazing building.

The barn, which had feed and equipment stored on its upper levels, was destroyed.

Pearl escaped with some burns about her head and neck, and is now recovering in another barn at the facility. She is being monitored by a vet for smoke inhalation.

"I hope she is OK. We hope everything is going to work out [for her]."

Williams said he paid her a visit today.

The North Strabane Fire Department, which has 35 volunteer and six full-time firefighters, has a large animal rescue unit, of which Williams is a member.

Williams has lived in the US since 1994. He works as a farrier and also trains standardbreds at a nearby track called The Meadows.