The destroyed barn after the Dec. 18 fire at Mercury Equine Center.

The destroyed barn after the Dec. 18 fire at Mercury Equine Center.

Fernando Alfonso

After Barn Fire, Lexington to Add 911 Staff

City concerned about slow response time to Mercury Equine Center barn fire.

Lexington plans to add staff to its 911 operation following a Dec. 18 barn fire at trainer Eric Reed's Mercury Equine Center training facility that claimed the lives of 23 Thoroughbreds.

Reed saw the Dec. 21 Lexington Herald-Leader story that noted the city will hire six staff members to assist 911 operations after concerns were raised about the response time to the Mercury Equine Center fire. Susan Straub, director of communications for Mayor Jim Gray, said it took 20 minutes for firefighters to arrive on the scene.

"We continue to investigate the amount of time it took for the fire trucks to be dispatched," Straub said in a release sent to BloodHorse. "Once dispatched, it took the trucks approximately 13 minutes to reach the scene. Fire Department administration maintains that is a reasonable time, given road conditions and weather."

Despite his losses, Reed is glad to see the problem is being addressed.

"It'll save my neighbors maybe," Reed said.

City leaders are still looking into the response time for the Dec. 18 barn fire.

"The investigation into E-9-1-1 dispatch concerns surrounding the fire at Mercury Equine Center continues," said Lexington deputy chief administrative officer Glenn Brown in a statement sent to BloodHorse. "We must ensure our emergency services are excellent."

Brown said part of the problem is the call center also handles non-emergency calls for the fire and police departments.

"We are putting staff in place to ensure our professional, trained operators can focus on the emergency calls coming into the E 9-1-1 center," Brown said. 

As for Reed, the days since the fire have not been much easier. He's been frustrated with how long it has taken to remove the bodies of the dead horses from the grounds. He said that process finally started Dec. 21.

"At least the fire department is here and they're going to let us move the horses today," Reed said. "I've had clients out here today giving them the riot act because they're not happy that their horses have been laying here all this time.

"It's been a nightmare. I always thought I could imagine something like this but I couldn't. What I've seen; no one should see it. I haven't even let my help over there. I just told them, 'You don't need to go.'

Reed said of the three Thoroughbreds who survived the fire but were injured, two may return from treatment today. He said the third, who was severely burned, continues to improve. 

Reed said it's been helpful to receive numerous phone calls of support, including from horsemen who previously have been through barn fires. Also, retired jockey and Ohio racing official Mike Manganello set up a fund-raising page to help Reed and Mercury Equine, with a $20,000 goal.

"We lost everything so it's going to be a long time coming back. Anyone who can help us in any way would be appreciated," Reed said. "Hay is probably the biggest thing we need; we lost most of it and it's hard to find this time of year. People who are helping us have been so generous, we can't thank everyone for what's going on; we appreciate everybody."