A devastating barn fire that killed 43 racehorses in Puslinch, Ont., has Island horse owners taking a closer look at fire safety in their facilities.
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"Your worst nightmare," said Meridian Farms co-owner Brian Andrew of the Ontario fire.
"First of all, it can probably put you out of business. But most important is horses. You get very attached to them."
Most horses are not insured, said Andrew, because the cost can be prohibitive.
"So you're not only losing a friend, but [they] can't be replaced overnight."
The harness-racing community in Canada is small and strong, Andrew said, and many are talking of helping the horsemen who lost animals in the fire.
"My heart goes out to them," added Andrew.
No smoking is priority
"Every time you hear about it, you kind of have to re-evaluate your own facility, and say, 'Am I doing enough?'"
Smoking is banned in Meridian Farms barns, said Andrew. The structures are older and have no sprinkler systems, although many new barns do.
Good maintenance is also key to fire prevention.
"We try to keep things very tidy and keep fire extinguishers in place and up to date," said Andrew.
He also keeps a couple of good barn cats in each barn to keep rodents — which can chew on electrical wiring — to a minimum.
Meridian Farms doesn't use stand-alone heaters, and turn off the heating system when they leave.
New stables at Red Shores Racetrack have sprinklers and a fire alarm. And there's no smoking allowed.
This weekend, Red Shores will launch a fundraiser for the Ontario stable that burned, Classy Lane Training Centre.
When something like this happens everyone wants to help, said Lee Drake, marketing and sales manager for Red Shores.
The Ontario Fire Marshal's investigation into the Puslinch blaze wrapped up on Thursday, and a report on the cause is expected soon.