Horse owners on edge

Colin MacLean
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Guard goes up after two barns and 10 animals are destroyed by fire

If you were talking to a horse owner in St. John’s Tuesday morning, chances are they looked a bit bleary eyed.

According to several people interviewed by The Telegram, many horse owners in the Goulds area of the city either slept in their barns or took turns guarding those of their neighbours Monday night.

Brett Whelan, track manager at the St. John’s Racing and Entertainment Centre, said he left the track’s stables at about 3 a.m. Tuesday and there were still about 20 people sitting around talking.

“People were just driving around, barn to barn, throughout the night,” said Whelan.

“It’s the first time we’ve ever had to deal with anything like that. It was more or less people uneasy and couldn’t sleep, so they said they might as well be down there (at the stables),” he said.

The horse owners were re­sponding to fears that their animals may have been in danger following the destruction of two barns, both containing racehorses, within the span of 13 hours Monday in Goulds.

Residents viewed the coincidence as highly suspicious, and most horse owners took extra measures to protect their animals, said Carl Ryall, whom The Tele­gram found cleaning out a horse stall at the racetrack Tuesday afternoon.

He’d only gotten about two hours of sleep in the past 24 hours, he said, having come off a night shift and gone right to the stables.

“You think the worst, right,” said Ryall.

One of the destroyed barns was older, he pointed out, so it is conceivable that something just sparked and caught fire, but the second barn was less than a year old.

“All of a sudden, for that to happen? It’s a little bit sick,” he said.

A fellow horse owner called him at work to tell him what had happened, he added, and he was on edge right up until his shift ended.

“I was at work last night and every time the phone rang I expected the worst. Same thing today,” he said.


Accidental fire

According to the RNC’s preliminary investigation, the first fire, which was on Back Line, is believed to have been accidental.

The preliminary investigation into the second fire, which was on Ruby Line, had not been released to the media as of The Telegram’s deadline Tuesday night.

But the circumstances in both cases have left many horse owners suspicious.

Pam Doucette started to tear up as she petted one of her horses, Dawn.

Like Ryall, she showed up at the racetrack to check on her animals as soon as she could.

Owners with animals in the track’s stables have been talking about writing up a schedule, she said, so there is always somebody with their animals for the near future.

“It’s a worry in so many different ways I can’t even begin to tell you. The horses are devastating to lose. They’re pets. They’re important to us,” said Doucette.


Animals killed

Nine horses were rescued from Monday’s blaze on Back Line, which was reported at about

10 a.m., but seven horses and three goats were killed in the Ruby Line fire, which was reported at 10:35 p.m.

No people were injured in either incident.

In the morning fire, a neighbour alerted the property owners of smoke. They managed to get their animals to safety.

In the second incident, a motorist flagged down an RNC cruiser to report smoke coming from a barn on Ruby Line.

The RNC officer called 911 and then ran to the barn, which already had heavy smoke pouring out of it. Attempts to open to the doors were unsuccessful.

Unable to get into the structure, the officer ran to wake the property owners. But by the time they got back to the barn, it was engulfed in flames. The animals inside did not survive.

The RNC said Tuesday it is asking the motorist who flagged down the officer to contact them. The motorist did not stay at the scene after the officer was informed of the smoke.

Twitter: @TelegramMacLean


Geographic location: Goulds

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Recent comments

  • John in Whitbourne
    December 29, 2012 - 10:36

    It would be possible for the first fire to have been caused by an accident while the second fire could have been set by a pyromaniac attracted to (inspired by) the first fire. You shouldn't expect the police to risk their credibility by stating 'the obvious', just because it fits with your theory. When the police make broad statements that turn out to be wrong, they provide a basis for defence counsel to challenge their credibility. All a defendant needs is 'reasonable doubt' provided by alternate theories of a crime. The Ray Newman trial is an excellent example of police mistakes destroying a prosecution.

  • Iwasthere
    December 13, 2012 - 07:27

    The police need to provide answers to the Goulds community regarding these "accidents" . Not believed by anyone that owns a barn or horse! When they report accidents they are usually accompanied by, " fire due to electrical wiring, etc" And the fact they are not connected???????? 2 fires in 1 day???? Some very important facts are being kept from the Goulds community. Answers please!!!!!!

  • leah
    December 12, 2012 - 20:19

    2 barn fires and they say it is not connected-I dont buy it at all-esp on the same day.If there is a accilerant found they would say it was arson--you dont really need a accilerant in a barn--you throw a match on a bail of hay and up she goes...wake up police,do you think the public is stupid.

  • Duffy
    December 12, 2012 - 16:48

    With the RNC's record on homicide cases I would suggest since they ruled both fires as accidents someone with expertise from out of Province take a second look at the fires and make a determination. It is hard to believe that two barns, same family and all involved in horse racing accidentally burned with in 24 hours. Does that make sense ?

  • Tracy
    December 12, 2012 - 10:59

    This seems to be more than a coincidence! It's quite tragic that something like this could happen so close to Christmas. To some people these animals aren't "just animals" they're pets whom they love just as much as a family pet. I've passed the Ruby Line Barn twice a day (at least) since Oct 2011. Every day stopping to watch the horses when they were in the paddock. I did not know the owners, but these were beautiful animals. I know several horse owners who also spent the night in their barns last night because they are scared stiff something might happen to their beloved pals. I hope if this last fire was arson, the police punish them to the full extent of the law, heck, even beyond. This wasn't just a structure, these were animals who thought they were safe in their home.

  • willyschilly
    December 12, 2012 - 09:03

    10 years in jail for every horse that was lost. The courts have to put their foot(feet) down and start scaring the crap out of people who want to do stupid careless shit like this.

  • Getitstraight
    December 12, 2012 - 07:23

    The motorist did stay at the scene. and the officer didn't wake up the family the motorist did.There was so much going on , I guess the officer forgot to get the motorist information. The owner tried to get in the barn , after the motorist woke them up. Get your story straight before you print it .The motorist stayed to comfort the family for about an hour after.