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Update: Fire at Heartland Farms deemed accidental; killed one person, nine horses

Fire extinguished as of mid-afternoon Thursday
Posted at 7:46 AM, Feb 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-04 10:40:59-05

BENNINGTON, Neb. (KMTV) — UPDATE 2/4 / 5:30 AM:

State Fire Marshal Investigators have determined the cause of the fire Thursday at Heartland Farms was accidental. The investigation into the fire is ongoing.

The name of the individual found deceased is being withheld until next of kin is notified. The Douglas County Attorney has ordered an autopsy to determine the cause of death.

Ten horses are being treated for serious injuries while nine died.

The firefighter transported from the scene to a local hospital has been treated and released.

Responding agencies included Waterloo Fire Department, Bennington Fire & Rescue, Valley Fire Department, Omaha Fire Department, Boys Town Fire Department, Kennard Fire & Rescue, Ponca Hills Fire Department, Irvington Fire Department, Ralston Fire Department, Fort Calhoun Fire & Rescue, Blair Fire & Rescue, Arlington Fire Department, Fremont Rural Fire Department, Yutan Fire Department, The Salvation Army, Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and the Nebraska State Fire Marshal Agency.

UPDATE: 3:45 PM

3 News Now has confirmed that one person has died, along with nine horses that were at Heartland Farms. Fire personnel on the scene said that the structure fire has been extinguished and confirmed the fatalities. The name of the deceased individual has not been released.

UPDATE: 12:30 PM

As of noon Thursday, a fire was still burning at Heartland Farms in Bennington as 120 personnel did their best to overcome circumstances that made it more difficult to extinguish the blaze. Temperatures have been in the single digits nearly the entire day, a factor that has been working against the 13 to 14 fire crews who are actively trying to stop hot spots with water.

The crews are transporting the water to the farm, where the 35,000 to 40,000 square foot structure is still burning. The fire began around 6:30 a.m.

3 News Now was told that one firefighter has been transported to Creighton University Medical Center-Bergan Mercy with injuries, and one unidentified party remains unaccounted for, per Waterloo Fire Department Chief Travis Harlow.

The farm breeds and sells "elite sport horses" including thoroughbred Holsteiner horses. It offers boarding and training options for them, as well as riding lessons. Owners say there are 50 horses on the farm.

The fire is owned by Blair and Karen Cudmore. Karen is a professional jumper/ rider who has competed internationally while representing Canada, including multiple FEI World Cup Finals and Pan American games in the last two decades. Daughter Brooke Cudmore is publicly listed as a professional rider at Heartland Farms as well.

While the Waterloo Fire Department has taken charge of the scene, Omaha, Bennington, Arlington and Fremont departments have all responded to the fire.

3 News Now reporter Zach Williamson is still on the scene. This is a developing story.

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