A barn fire at Happy Valley Farms in Rossville, Ga., killed 35 Saddlebreds on June 20. The farm’s trainers managed to rescue one horse, Merchant Heir, and no people were hurt in the blaze.
“The firemen were yelling at us, but we went in,” Donnie Pyburn, one of the farm’s trainers, told the Catoosa County News. “The smoke was about chest level, and you could not breathe. It was so thick and black you could only go so far. Then the heat started getting to us, so we just had to abandon trying to get anybody out. The horse didn’t want to come out, and we had to leave him, but we left the doors open and in about 10 seconds he flew out [the door].”
While the cause of fire is under investigation, foul play is not suspected, according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press. The farm is owned by Marion “Bit” Hutcheson.
The fire was reported around 8:30 p.m. on June 20, and another Happy Valley trainer, Daniel Jenner, said the entire structure burned in about 20 minutes.
Walker County Fire Chief Randy Camp told the Times Free Press that the total loss estimates are approximately $3 million for the horses and $1.1 million for the main barn and surrounding structures, though other news reports placed the damage at $6 million total.
Happy Valley Farms owns a broodmare barn and a colt barn in addition to the main barn, and neither were damaged in the fire. Horses turned out in pastures also survived.