BENNINGTON, Neb. (KMTV) — The fire at an elite sport horse farm in Bennington was extinguished during the afternoon on Thursday. But before the blaze at Heartland Farms was put out, it claimed the lives of one person and nine horses, according to reports from fire personnel on the scene.
State Fire Marshal Investigators have determined the cause of the fire was accidental and the investigation is ongoing.
In addition to the loss of life, the massive structure that was estimated between 35,000 and 40,000 square feet had been gutted. It is still unclear what caused the fire, which broke out at around 6 a.m. The fire drew a heavy response from area fire crews and Waterloo Fire Department ended up heading the effort.
The cold temperatures and the materials in the barn made it difficult to extinguish the fire.
"There was over 13 different fire departments from 4 different counties. One of the biggest reasons, as you know we're standing out here in the cold temperatures and then also shuttling water," Travis Harlow, Fire Chief of the Waterloo Fire Department, said.
Area veterinarians and other farms stepped up to help with the temporary rehousing of animals, including Scattered Joy Acres.
"Our community always comes together in tragedies and that’s what it's all about. We’re Nebraska strong and we’re so thankful that we have the people we have in our area that no matter who it is or what it’s about or what you may have, someone you may not like or whatever, it doesn’t matter. You do it because you care about the people you care about the animals and helping where you can help," Joy Bartling, Executive Director of Scatter Joy Acres said.
Bartling said when she arrived there were vets beginning to triage animals. She adds many had charred fur and wings and smoke in their lungs.
"So we just help wherever we could. Standing there and holding an IV tube because one horse he kept moving his head and pulling it out. You just have to stand there and comfort them, that's all they wanted. They’re all in shock they wanted to be comforted in this situation," Bartling said.
Bartling took in the chickens from Heartland Farm to care for until they can safely return.
"When I left them, I said, know they’re in good hands until you can assess everything you need to do with your situation and once you figure out what's going on and you have a safe place for them to come back home, then we’ll bring them back home," Bartling said. "It’s one less thing they have to worry about."