Cause of Ocala Stud Fire Unknown, But Not Suspicious

A state fire investigator said an Ocala Stud training barn was so severely damaged in a blaze, which killed 22 horses, that the cause may never be known. Still, the fire is not considered suspicious in any way.

"I expect this fire will be classified as undetermined," said Mike Lofton, a State Fire Marshal investigator. "We know the fire originated in the middle of the barn where there was a storage room. Appliances were in that room, but there was electrical wiring throughout the barn."

Samples from the barn were sent to a laboratory in Tallahassee for testing. The results are expected in about a week, and Lofton is not expecting anything unusual to show up in the lab results.

"There are no red flags in this case," he said.

The old training barn near Ocala Stud's track burned so completely because it was wooden and a 14 mph wind that blew the afternoon of Feb. 23 fueled the blaze like a furnace.

New York owner Carl Lizza owned 13 of the 22 horses in the barn. Another six were owned by trainer Joe Pierce Jr. and Pierce's partner Janet Laszlo, and the rest by owner Vernon Heath of Minnesota-based Centaur Farm, trainer Scotty Schulhofer, and trainer T.J. Kelly.

The horses were valued at up to $2 million and were not insured.

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