Owners still 'in shock' after 18 horses killed in Plainfield barn fire

SUN-TIMES MEDIA WIRE - Eighteen horses died when flames raced through a barn early Wednesday in southwest suburban Plainfield.

Firefighters responded about 1:15 a.m. to the blaze at Del Real Stables, 1120 Wheeler Road, according to Plainfield Fire Deputy Chief Jon Stratton.

A detached semi-trailer carrying sawdust and wood chips for horse bedding that was next to the building also caught fire.

“The fire came in from the west side and ran so fast,” Stratton told the Chicago Sun-Times. “I can’t believe how fast it ran.”

The cause of the fire remained under investigation Wednesday afternoon.

Thirty horses were in the barn, and 12 survived, Stratton said. The barn boarded horses that belonged to multiple owners.

One horse was outside and unharmed by the time help arrived, Plainfield Police Chief John Konopek said. Owners and firefighters were able to get the 11 others out, but even though they managed to open gates to several stalls, some of the startled horses refused to move, he said.

As the fire raced through the barn, visibility inside quickly went “to total black,” Stratton said, adding that he suspects straw in a loft area helped fuel the blaze.

The barn is in a rural area with no fire hydrants, said Mary Ludemann, a spokeswoman for the Plainfield Fire Department. Water had to be shuttled to the barn in tankers, she said.

Two adults were injured in the fire, authorities said. One suffered a sprained ankle and was taken to Edward Quick Care in Plainfield. The other had difficulty breathing and was taken to Saint Joseph Medical Center in Joliet. Both were in good condition.

Eleven horses were initially reported missing, according to the stable’s Facebook page, but as of Wednesday afternoon, all had been accounted for.

Alison Powers, of Premier Equine Veterinarian Service in Lemont, spent the day visiting various stables and clinics where the 12 surviving horses were being boarded. She said it was the worst fire event she had encountered in a decade as a vet.

“People are still in shock. I think now it’s starting to set in, the devastation of what happened,” Powers said.

Four horses were taken to animal hospitals, two of which suffered burns. One animal’s burns were “fairly severe,” Powers said.

“Things will get worse for them before they get better,” Powers said. “We’re keeping a close eye on them over the next 72 hours.”

The other horses mostly suffered minor cuts and superficial wounds, she said, adding that the tragedy was bringing together the close-knit equine community.

“There have been all sorts of clients and owners bringing water, food, supplies and offering to haul horses, just seeing if there’s any way they can help,” Powers said.

“I knew a lot of these horses before the fire. It touches everyone deeply. No one wants to be in that situation.”

According to the Del Real Stables website, the boarding and training facility opened in the spring of 2016. The stable’s owner has not responded to requests for comment. Police said he was cooperating with investigators.

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