'It's devastating': Dozens of racehorses die in fire

More than 40 racehorses were killed when a fire tore through a barn in south-central Ontario, causing the roof and walls to collapse.

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The fire began at approximately 11 p.m., at the Classy Lanes Stables Training Centre in Puslinch, Ont. Puslinch is a township located approximately 20 kilometres southeast of Guelph.

Firefighters were called in from several communities in the area, but the fire could not be extinguished before dozens of horses had died.

"It's devastating. These are by and large family members to us," Ben Wallace said in an interview with Newstalk1010 on Tuesday. Wallace is an owner and trainer who lost 17 horses in the fire. Wallace told CTV Toronto that one of his horses that died in the fire was racing star Apprentice Hanover, who is worth more than $1 million.

"There's 44 carcasses laying here," Wallace told Newstalk1010 from the scene of the fire, his voice cracking. He said the barn holds 46 horses, but there were at least two empty stalls at the time, so he wasn't sure exactly how many horses had died.

Wallace said he'd been at the stable at the time, and that the fire had engulfed one of the buildings so quickly that no one was able to get to the horses.

"The smoke was so dense that you couldn't go near it. They probably all suffocated before they perished."

"This is not an old wooden barn, it's a state-of-the-art facility… It's the best place in Canada and houses the best horses in Canada," he said. Classy Lane opened in 2003, and can accommodate as many as 222 horses, according to the stable's website.

The majority of the horses are owned by trainers who race them at southern Ontario racetracks including the Mohawk, Woodbine and Flamboro Downs tracks, Puslinch Fire Chief Steve Goode told reporters.

Goode said the cause of the fire is not yet known, but crews are working with provincial police and the Ontario Fire Marshal to investigate.

"This is a multi-million dollar fire, the highest dollar loss that we have experienced in our township," he said.

He said the building is not structurally sound, so crews will have to take some of the building down before investigating further.



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