Horsemen Save Standardbreds From Pocono Barn Fire

Horsemen stabled at the Downs at Pocono, a harness track near Wilkes-Barre, Pa., saved 22 horses from a fire that almost destroyed an entire barn the morning of April 2. No humans or horses were seriously injured, officials said.

Local and state officials are investigating the fire, which has been labeled arson, according to newspapers in northeastern Pennsylvania. There were two separate fires in the barn, reports said.

According to track officials, Jennifer Kolessar, a trainer, owner, and provisional driver, discovered the fire in trainer George Napolitano Jr.'s barn and quickly notified track security and fellow horsemen Eddie Dempsey, Eric Mollor, and Shane Taggart. She was at her barn to set up feed for her horses.

When they arrived, Dempsey, Mollor, and Taggart opened stall doors and rescued the horses while track security personnel and members of the Plains Township Fire Department fought the blaze. Taggart reportedly went through the flames to secure Tylation and Radar Hanover, two Standardbreds that were in the stalls severely damaged by fire.

The alarm at the fire department went off at 1:49 a.m.

"The horses wouldn't come out at first," Dempsey said. "But once we got the first one out the others followed. I really don't know how Shane rescued those two horses from those two stalls. He put his life on the line."

"I really didn't give it any thought before I went in for those two horses," Taggart said. "It was an instinctive move. We just love the horses. I couldn't see them dying in the fire."

Kolessar, Dempsey, Taggart, and Mollor were taken to local hospitals and treated for smoke inhalation. Two tack rooms and three stalls were gutted. 27, 28 and 29 were severely gutted.

Napolitano estimated damages at approximately $10,000. The equipment and barns are insured by the Downs at Pocono and the Pennsylvania Harness Horsemen's Association. Local and state officials are investigating the fire.