Race Track Barn Fire

Race Track Barn Fire

Ruins of barn at Saratoga Raceway indicate intensity of blaze. Fire fighting efforts were directed at saving barn at left.

Training Officer

Saratoga Springs, N.Y., Fire Dept.

In less than 20 minutes after it was checked by the fire watch, the J barn at Saratoga Raceway in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., was fully involved in a fire that took the lives of 43 horses.

The weather was clear and cool with a strong breeze from the west when the watchman in a pickup truck passed the J barn about 3:40 a.m. last June 5. Seeing nothing out of order, he drove to the paddock area. There he looked back and saw a glow in tire sky.

The watchman immediately went back to the barn, determined that the groom was out of the tack room, and then sped to the gatehouse to sound the alarm. By this time, the bam was fully involved, and it was impossible to rescue any of the horses. There were 44 in the barn at the time, and one horse escaped death by kicking his way out of his stall.

The fire alarm desk at the Saratoga Springs Fire Department received box 95 at the Saratoga Raceway gatehouse at 3:59 a.m. The dispatcher sent the on-duty shift of eight men to the fire with a pumper and a quint. While on the way, the lieutenant in charge saw the glow in the sky and radioed the fire alarm desk to dispatch another pumper, call the chief and summon all off-duty fire fighters.

Two off-duty fire fiighters who had noticed the glow in the sky responded with the second pumper. About this time, the police department notified the fire department that a police car on the opposite side of the city had spotted a fire in the raceway area.

The first pumper arrived as flames had almost leveled the J bam and had spread to the H bam, about 40 feet down wind. The fire fighters immediately attacked the H barn fire with two preconnected 1½-inch lines and backed them up with a 2½-inch fine. Two feeder lines were stretched from a hydrant 400 feet to the pumper.

As they began extinguishing the fire in the H bam and the equipment beside it, fire fighters closed all the stall doors in the barn to keep bedding and hay from being ignited by sparks. The second pumper was ordered to the far end of the J bam to protect bams in that area from flying sparks and brands.

As dawn came, fire fighters were soaking the ruins, and raceway officials were arranging for the burial of the 43 horses. It was 4 p.m. before all fire units were able to leave the scene.

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