Barn Fire Kills 22 Horses at Ocala Stud Farm

Twenty-two horses died Saturday in a barn fire blamed on an electrical problem at Ocala Stud Farm.

According to an Ocala Star-Banner report, the fire, which started Saturday afternoon, had fully engulfed the barn before firefighters responded to a call from a neighbor who spotted the smoke.

Due to heavy rains and the barn's wooden roof, investigators decided to wait until Sunday morning to begin their investigation fearing a collapse of the roof, a fire marshal told the Star-Banner.

Firefighters spoke with farm owner J. Michael O'Farrell after their arrival but were trying to locate him later Saturday to obtain more information.

"When we first talked with him (O'Farrell), he told us that the damage to the barn and the horses could be from $1.5 million to $2 million," Battalion Chief Robert Ramage said. "At this time, we don't know if the horses there were for breeding purposes, racehorses, mares, fillies -- we don't know."

On Sunday, Marion County Fire Rescue Capt. Deborah Karst said the horses were 2- and 3-year-olds.

The horses didn't belong to the farm, but were being trained there. Richard Hancock, head of the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Association, said it wasn't clear to whom the horses belonged. No one at the farm could be reached for comment.

Another barn was saved by firefighters. No people were injured in the blaze.

The Ocala area, in north-central Florida, is the state's Thoroughbred horse-breeding capital.

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