Woodstock barn fire kills 32 horses

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Monday, November 24, 2014
Woodstock barn fire kills 32 horses
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At least 32 horses were killed in a barn fire in northwest suburban Woodstock, fire officials said.

WOODSTOCK, Ill. (WLS) -- At least 32 horses were killed in a barn fire in northwest suburban Woodstock Saturday night.

The fire, which broke out just before 11 p.m. Saturday, happened at Valley View Acres Horse Stables in the 5100-block of Mt. Thabor Road.

What is left of the barn still smoldered Sunday night. It was early evening before the fire department finished transferring the remains of at least 15 horses so they may be claimed Monday.

Firefighters have been trying to be as sensitive as they can toward those who have lost one of their beloved animals.

"A family member came and brought flowers with, and we couldn't allow her in the building," said Chief Paul Deraedt, Crystal Lake Fire Department. "We were able to work with her, put the flowers in the stall where her horse was at, which helps with some closure."

Fifteen of the 32 horses that died in the fire belonged to owner Amber Bauman. She and her husband were at an awards banquet Saturday night when her son was awakened by a crackling sound from the stable area.

"My best friend was in there," Bauman said. "I've known her since the day she was born and when I was a 10-year-old girl on New Year's Eve I said, 'I'm going to buy that horse,' and her name is Eve, and I bought her."

Bauman's son and one of their grooms were able to rescue five horses.

"Ten minutes after we got here we were able to sprint to the back of the barn," Katherine Golden said. "He's white, you could just see this little white blur going, running around back there, and he came running up to us, and he's fine."

Over the years, this family has raised several thoroughbred horses, including one that went on to star in "The Lone Ranger" with Johnny Depp, but despite a huge monetary loss, it's the emotional loss that's hardest to bear.

"We're tough, we stick together, it'll get there, we're all going to stick together because we're all family," said Leah Sweetwood, who worked in the barn. "Eventually, we'll have our time to mourn."

Sweetwood's horse, Odie, did not make it out alive.

"He was the type of horse you could put anybody on. He was just such a sweetheart," she said.

Investigators are focusing on the hay inside the barn as the primary cause of the fire, saying it may have been a case of spontaneous combustion.

A firefighter suffered a minor injury, but no other injuries were reported.

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