Horse death toll hits 18 in Illinois barn fire

Richard Wright, pictured on Dancing in the Dark.
Black Tie Stable owner Richard Wright, pictured on Dancing in the Dark.

The number of horses that perished in a massive barn fire in McHenry County, Illinois, on Wednesday stands at 18.

Many of the dead horses are reported to be Arabians.

Fire investigators said the cause could not at this stage be established definitively, but it was considered accidental.

In all, 22 horses were saved from the early-evening blaze, and all are reported to be well.

It is believed that all horses are now accounted for.

There were 40 animals in the 64-stall barn at the time of the blaze, which razed the Black Tie Stable at 101 W. Bay Road, east of Johnsburg, on Wednesday about 5pm.

Two of those who helped rescue horses were taken to hospital for treatment for smoke inhalation.

Black Tie Stables is operated by Richard Wright, who trains and shows arabian and part arabian horses.

The fire is believed to have started in the southeast corner of the stable, which measured 80 metres long by 40 metres wide.

The absence of hydrants in the area meant 21 fire departments turned out to fight the blaze.



4 thoughts on “Horse death toll hits 18 in Illinois barn fire

  • April 14, 2012 at 1:55 pm

    This is a very difficult situation. We teach technical large animal emergency rescue (TLAER) techniques, tactics and procedures all over the world. And, although our hearts leaped with joy at the heroic image of a young lady stepping up to do such an amazing and remarkable thing as this rescue – we consistently remind all of our students (which include firefighters) that running into any barn on fire is extremely dangerous, even with the proper firefighting equipment and a buddy team and the ICS system in place. I was recently appointed to the NFPA 150 Technical Committee to make recommendations to this standard.

    Despite the amazing and heroic event today, PLEASE tell your friends and children – please do not consider this avenue for removing your horses from a barn fire – in our training events and in years of collecting data on horse barn fires – there are very few fires where someone is able to survive these circumstances. Most barns are fully involved within 7 to 10 minutes from the initial outbreak of flames, and on the ground within 15 to 20 minutes. Commonly – the horses do not die of burns, but of smoke and toxin inhalation and lung damage. Firefighters tell us that many times by the time they get to the fire, the barn is totally quiet – because the animals are overcome by the smoke.

    There are some excellent suggestions for barns to UPGRADE the ability to DETECT, to ALARM, to SUPPRESS, and to RESPOND to a barn fire – but they involve better smoke, heat and flame detectors; sprinkler systems and suppression systems be installed; hard-wiring into the local fire department / security system to notify the alarm. These proven technologies are rarely found in horse barns and barn building and design suffers from what we call the “celebrity effect” – people don’t consult fire experts to build a barn – they talk to horse people (who don’t know anything about barn fires.)

    The other methods to consider are stall doors to the OUTSIDE WALL so that you don’t have to extricate the animals from the interior aisle, and of course fire lanes so that they can be released and chased out to a safe area such as a paddock or pasture – then prevented from running back into the barn.

    Dr. Rebecca Gimenez

  • April 16, 2012 at 11:03 am

    Most interesting comments from Dr Rebecca Gimenez, You would think that people who have very valuable horses would think about security and fire systems, after all it wouldn’t cost that much more when building these large stable complexes to add some safety measures.

  • April 19, 2012 at 4:14 am

    I can fully understand Dr. Gimenez’s points; they are well made. Most barns have the bare minimum of fire prevention and it doesn’t seem to matter how many horses die each year. Unfortunately some of the best solutions are too expensive (outside doors), or too impractical due to availability of space (individual paddocks, fire lanes).

    However, courage is doing what you’re afraid to do and Monday morning quarterbacking is good only if you’re going to play another game. What this girl did is the ESSENCE of heroism, and most reading of her efforts hope they would have the courage to do what she did. Most horsepeople would willingly risk their lives for their horses. Dr. Gimenez reminding us of the danger will not stop them.

  • September 3, 2012 at 4:09 am

    Yes, I agree with emergency lanes around and to the barns. We had emergency lanes, out side doors, commercial code wiring EVERYWHERE in conduit, and fire and theft alarms.
    The alarms were on all stall doors and out side walk thru doors. Our local fire department knew the barn situations and locations of entry.
    All arenas opened to access outdoor paddocks or riding arenas so they could be massed move out in casae of fire.
    All boarders knew and had posted emergency routes on all access doors. And there were fire extinguishers every thirty feet. We also had two wells and water hydrants with storm sewers to run water away every twenty feet.
    All barns were pole barns with insulation and windows. All entrys were never locked and had alarm sensors.


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