Therapy horse-riding barn burns in Oregon

10 horses, other animals die in fire at Vail Meadows Equestrian Center

3/22/2013
BY JANE SCHMUCKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Oregon firefighters remain on the scene after an early morning barn fire at the Vail Meadow Equestrian Center on Cedar Point Road in Oregon, Thursday, March 21, 2013.  10 horses and some other animals were killed in the fire.
Oregon firefighters remain on the scene after an early morning barn fire at the Vail Meadow Equestrian Center on Cedar Point Road in Oregon, Thursday, March 21, 2013. 10 horses and some other animals were killed in the fire.

UPDATE:

Michael McGee of the Toledo Police Department Mounted Patrol leads the riderless horse, Harley, past fellow officers during the Toledo Area Police Memorial Service honoring officers killed in the line of duty.  Harley was killed in an early morning fire at a horse-therapy farm in Oregon.
Michael McGee of the Toledo Police Department Mounted Patrol leads the riderless horse, Harley, past fellow officers during the Toledo Area Police Memorial Service honoring officers killed in the line of duty. Harley was killed in an early morning fire at a horse-therapy farm in Oregon.

Ten horses and several other animals were killed in a fire early today at the Vail Meadows Equestrian Center in Oregon, a facility that provides therapy horse-riding programs.

The fire at 6118 Cedar Point Rd. was reported shortly after 3:30 a.m. A wood-framed barn, containing the 10 horses, one goat, one pig, and some fowl, was fully engulfed when firefighters arrived. All of the animals inside died at the scene, said Mark Mullins, the Oregon District Fire Chief.

Six of the horses were used for therapy purposes, while four others were owned by Vail family members, who operate the facility, said Toledo police Sgt. Mike McGee, a Vail family member.

"That was our whole program," Sergeant McGee said today about the loss of the therapy horses. "We're going to try and keep the program going but we'll have to start over...We've got a lot of kids that depend on us."

The horses included Tennesse Walkers, Quarter Horses, and Palominos, he said. They were trained for years for the therapy programs and had calm temperaments, he said. One of the horses was a retired Toledo police horse named Harley, now owned by Sergeant McGee, that had once participated in a national police contest.

Occupants of a Vail-family house 20 feet away got out safely and there was no damage to the home. A second, larger structure, which houses the horse arena, did not catch fire.

Chief Mullins said 25-35 Oregon firefighters fought the blaze inside the 100-foot-by-100-foot barn, which was about 100 years old. Winds from the west made the barn burn faster, he said. The firefighters also were hampered in their efforts because of 5-degree wind chills that quickly caused overspray to turn to ice.

The cause has not yet been determined, Chief Mullins said. The Ohio State Fire Marshal's office is en route to the scene.

The chief said the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency has been contacted to determine if there could be any contamination concerns for the nearby Maumee Bay. The Toledo-Lucas County Health Department will determine today how the horses will be buried.

Damage was thought to be at least $100,000, Sergeant McGee said.

Vail Meadows is a 25-acre farm that has housed about 35 horses. Its clientele ranges from riders with disabilities to experienced barrel racers, according to its Web site. Sergeant McGee said the therapy program's riders range in age from 6 to 50. There are currently about 40 people with disabilities involved in the program.

The Vail family started the center in the 1990s and it is operated by family members.