PLAINFIELD, Ill. - Eighteen horses were killed early Wednesday morning in a barn fire in southwest suburban Plainfield, fire officials said.
Firefighters were called to Del Real Stables in the 1100-block of Wheeler Road around 1:15 a.m., Plainfield Deputy Fire Chief Jon Stratton said.
When they arrived, the west side of a barn was fully engulfed by flames. A nearby storage trailer containing wood shavings and sawdust was also on fire.
Stable workers and horse owners were trying to rescue their animals. Two workers suffered minor injuries in the process. One was treated for smoke inhalation at a local medical facility, officials said.
There were 30 horses in the barn at the time of the fire. The owner of the stable put out an alert on Facebook asking people to help find 11 missing horses that were let out during the fire. By around 7:30 a.m., he said all of the horses had been accounted for.
A total of eighteen horses died in the fire. Many of the owners who boarded their horses at Del Real were too emotional to talk about the loss of their animals as fire and police officials continue to investigate.
A woman who lost her 8-year-old Arabian in the fire tweeted Wednesday morning, saying that the animal meant so much to her. She purchased the horse to help her through the death of her mother.
The fire spread before crews were able to get it under control around 1:45 a.m., Stratton said. With no hydrants in the area, firefighters used tankers full of water to try to put out the blaze.
Firefighters from eight nearby towns helped fight the fire. Nearly seven hours later, crews were still dousing hot spots. The barn was a total loss, officials said.
Anne Briscoe's thoroughbred Spencer was one of the dozen horses that escaped death, but she said he suffered burns.
Two workers doing a routine check on the animals called for help after seeing flames. They're credited with saving many of the horses trapped by fire.
"The fire was so well involved at that point anyway that we were just concerned about protecting exposures at that point," said Plainfield Deputy Fire Chief Dave Riddle.
Lorenzo Salgado's father lost the horses he'd been boarding at the barn for three months.
"He had two of them. One was called White Legs, and everyone here knew the other one as Cookie Monster," Salgado said.
On Wednesday afternoon, concerned residents turned out to help with supplies and apple treats for the horses while imagining what it's like to lose your best friend.
"My chest hurts. My stomach hurts. I can't get ahold of my trainer," said Cathy Oots, whose granddaughter took riding lessons at the stable.
The owner of the stable could not be reached for comment.
The horses that survived the fire will be boarded at other stables as the state fire marshal joins the investigation. The cause of the fire is still unknown.
"With the Fourth of July, pretty much anywhere you go, there are fireworks being shot. That is something that we are looking at. Right now, we don't have any indication that fireworks were the cause. One of the things we do is walk around the property, areas that are unaffected by the fire, especially in this circumstance, to see if there is any firework debris - paper-related to fireworks debris - left behind. As of right now, we have not found anything like that," Plainfield Police Chief John Konopek said.