27 Horses Killed in West Virginia Barn Fire

Fire destroyed two barns and damaged a third; cause unknown.

An early morning fire on Labor Day killed at least 27 horses stabled at three barns located across from Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races in Ranson, W. Va.

Another 20 horses were rescued, according to Lenny Hale, executive director of the Charles Town Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, which is assisting in providing help to owners and trainers impacted by the tragedy.

The fire at the older wooden structures began at about 4:40 a.m. and units from seven fire departments responded. In addition to destroying two barns, the fire also damaged a third structure.

Hale said two barns were owned by Sharon and Freddy Johnson and the other by Steve Spears. He said it was not immediately known who owned the horses that died, but that the property was used by some horsemen unable to get stalls at Charles Town.

The track, which did not own nor have any control over the barns, opened one of its unused barns to accommodate horses displaced by the fire.

“It was feeding time and a lot of people saw the fire going, but it all happened very quickly,” Ken Lowe, president of the Charles Town Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association, told the Washington Post.

Independent Fire Company Chief Ed Smith told the Post investigators have not determined what caused the fire but state fire marshals on the scene said it was likely accidental. Two people — a casino employee and a firefighter — suffered minor injuries while battling the blaze, officials said. Three wooden barns were completely destroyed and a fourth was damaged.

Property damage was estimated at $1.2 million, and each horse was thought to be worth at least $10,000, although Smith said the value of the horses was “probably much, much higher.”

Hale said that representatives of the National HBPA and other affiliates were offering assistance and that additional information on how others can help would be available within the next 24 to 48 hours.