West Virginia Fire Death Toll Up to 29 Horses

As investigators began to ask questions about the cause of a Labor Day fire that destroyed four barns located near Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races, the official number of horses that died increased to 29.

Initial reports placed the number of deaths at 27, but two more were added as cleanup began at the scene, the Journal-News in Martinsburg, West Va., reported.

The Journal-News reported that investigators were being hampered in their effort to find the cause of the fire because most of the site was cleared by those in charge of removing the horses.

Assistant State Fire Marshal Patrick Barker, who is in charge of the probe, told the newspaper that the horses were to be removed quickly for public health reasons but that in doing so the workers cleared the rest of the debris, impacting the effort to find the cause of the fire.

There were also questions being raised about an apparent time lapse between 4:20 a.m. EDT, the time a bystander said they first saw the blaze, and 4:40 a.m., when it was first reported via a 911 phone call, the newspaper reported.

Also, Barker said that although the scene was disturbed, investigators brought in an accelerant-sniffing canine and the dog indicated positive hits. "We got samples that could indicate criminal activity," he said.

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