Three barns caught fire at about 4:40 a.m. Monday morning. Witnesses described seeing a transformer on a utility pole catch fire, which spread to the barns. Flames shot as high as 50 feet, The (Hagerstown, Md.) Herald-Mail reported.
The privately owned barns stable some horses that race at the track. There were numerous horses in the stables due to a race on Sunday.
The fire at one of the barns killed 25 horses, while two more horses died in another barn. Another 26 horses were let loose and rounded up today. Two were found about a mile away at a 7-Eleven. A litter of kittens also was rescued by firefighters sifting through the ashes for signs of life.
Authorities and tourists struggled to rescue horses from the fire. Forty firefighters needed 40 minutes to extinguish the fire.
"You could just hear them yelling and whinnying and trying to get out and they were burning up, you know, smoke inhalation and everything," said Donnie Poper, one of the first to the scene. "There was no way you could get to 'em."
Firefighters worked through the day recovering the bodies of horses. Independent Fire Company Chief Ed Smith said the cause of the fire was unknown.
Smith told The Journal newspaper in Martinsburg, W.Va., that total damage to the barns was about $1.2 million. The value of the horses was unknown.
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