PUSLINCH, Ont. — A massive fire that gutted a barn and killed more than 40 racehorses inside has caused one of the most financially and emotionally devastating losses to rock the community, the local fire chief said Tuesday.
Steven Goode said officials in Puslinch, Ont. are still in shock from the massive blaze that erupted at the Classy Lane Stables on Monday night and was only subdued after the efforts of 50 firefighters from the town and surrounding cities.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation by the Ontario Fire Marshal's office and the exact financial impact is still being determined, but Goode said the scope of the loss is already apparent.
"We consider this a horse community and it is absolutely devastating," Goode told a news conference.
The fire broke out shortly after 11 p.m. on a night when temperatures dipped as low as -20 C.
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Goode said the fire was first reported by a neighbour who spotted the blaze at the barn located about 20 kilometres south of Guelph.
Local crews responded quickly, but found the barn with at least 40 horses inside fully engulfed in flames once they arrived on scene, he said.
The dozens of firefighters from Puslinch, Guelph, Cambridge and Hamilton had to struggle with adverse conditions caused by the frigid temperatures, Goode said, adding the wintry weather caused hose lines to keep freezing up and created challenging road conditions.
Goode declined to say exactly how many of the racehorses died in the fire, but described the fire as a "multimillion-dollar" blaze that is "the highest dollar loss that we've experienced in our township."
Classy lane co-owner Barb Miller previously estimated that about 43 of the standardbred racehorses housed at the barn died in the fire.
Miller's husband and co-owner was hastily flying home to Canada from Florida to assess the damage, she said.
Miller said the horses traditionally raced at the Mohawk, Woodbine and Flamboro Downs racetracks in southern Ontario.
The Classy Lane website says the facility opened in 2003 and has five barns that accommodate 222 horses.
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