11 Horses Die in Illinois Barn Fire

PEOTONE, Ill. --

Eleven horses died Tuesday in a barn fire near Peotone that took firefighters more than eight hours to completely extinguish.

NBC5 reported that several horses were saved by a Good Samaritan passing the scene as the fire broke out.

Arthur Hernandez was driving by the Kumar Stables Tuesday afternoon when he saw the fire and called 911. He was then able to get some of the horses out of the danger zone.

"I just took it upon myself to go get some of the horses out of that corral area, out of the barn, rather. I feel sad that I didn't get all of them out," Hernandez said.

The Peotone Fire District received a 911 call for a structure fire in the 10500 block of Wilmington-Peotone Road at 2:20 p.m., according to Deputy Fire Chief Bill Schreiber.

The first engine company got to the scene, about four miles west of Peotone in an unincorporated area of Will County, just seven minutes later, but by that time the 40 feet by 40 feet horse barn was completely in flames and the roof was collapsing, Schreiber said. A 20 feet by 60 feet building next to it, which contained 4,000 bales of hay, as well as some vehicles and farm equipment, was also on fire, Schreiber said. A smaller 10 feet by 20 feet building north of that "was starting to catch fire," he said.

The response was raised to a two-alarm, which brought additional equipment in, including water tankers, Schreiber said, but by that time the 11 horses in the barn had perished and the first two buildings were destroyed. Firefighters fought the blaze for about eight hours, Schreiber said.

"It was a huge mess," he said.

Heavy equipment was brought in so the fire district could tear into the building the hay was in and the Will County Sheriff's Department, in addition to the Will County Emergency Management department, provided assistance, such as bringing in light towers once the sun went down.

"There are probably still some hot spots," Schreiber noted, and firefighters will return to the scene Wednesday morning to make sure the fire does not re-ignite.

No firefighters were injured, Schreiber said. He added, though, that "we heard of an injury" to a person who was apparently kicked by a horse as that person was trying to rescue horses from the barn. Schreiber believes that person may have suffered broken leg and driven on their own to a hospital.

The dollar amount of the damage to the buildings was not yet known, but "I know it's going to be extensive," Schreiber said.

The cause of the fire is unknown and is being investigated by the state Fire Marshal.

Copyright 2007, Chicago Sun-Times Inc.

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