At least 17 horses died when a fire completely destroyed a large stable at the All Seasons mushroom farm on 224 Street near 40 Avenue in Langley Township on Sunday afternoon (June 1).
They were elite harness racing standardbreds that competed at the Fraser Downs track in Cloverdale.
It is believed to be one of the worst fires involving livestock ever recorded in Langley Township.
The blaze was first reported shortly after 2 p.m.
At the height of the fight, up to 14 fire trucks and 60 firefighters were on the scene.
It took about two hours to get the fire under control.
Firefighters had to load water from hydrants down the street and transport it to the blaze, located in an area without direct water service.
The stable was completely destroyed.
Two farmworkers were treated for smoke inhalation, but were not expected to suffer any lasting injury.
A fire department crew returned to the scene Monday to hose down smouldering hot spots.
An excavator was brought in to retrieve the horses’ bodies.
The cause of the blaze is under investigation.
All Seasons mushroom farm owner Frank Moscone told The Times his understanding is that some of the horses were race horses, but because his company leased the building out and did not handle the day-to-day operation, he was unable to say exactly how many were in the stable at the time.
According to the Standardbred Canada website, the majority of the horses stabled in the barn competed in Fraser Downs harness racing.
They were trained by Bill Davis and owned by Rick Mowles of J J J Stables.
“Along with the devastating loss of all the horses, Bill and Laurie Davis lost their entire livelihood as well,” said family friend Walter Slopianka.
“It was a total loss of everything they have worked their lives to build,” Slopianka said.
“Anything and everything horse racing related was lost, from water buckets, harnesses … to all of Bill’s racing colours and helmets.”
Slopianka is co-ordinating donations to help the Davis family get back on their feet.
He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
One comment posted on The Times website said the horses would have been kept indoors at the time of the fire because elite race horses are exercised early in the morning and late in the afternoon, to avoid when the weather is especially hot.
The SPCA told The Times the animal protection agency will not be investigating the care the horses received.
The organic mushroom farm was built on the site of a former horse track.
All Seasons applied to the Township for permission to fill in the former horse oval to grow hay, but was turned down in February of this year after some residents objected to the amount of fill, roughly 7,000 truck loads worth.