At least 24 horses killed in Ga. equestrian center barn fire
Forsyth County firefighters had been initially sent to a smoke investigation in the area when the call was upgraded to a structure fire
By David Aaro
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — A rainbow appeared Monday morning over the charred barn in Forsyth County that had once shone bright with white paint and reddish trim.
Just 24 hours earlier, flames tore through the building on a family-owned farm near Ball Ground, killing two dozen horses that were trapped inside and leaving the rural community shattered. It was the worst agrarian loss in Jason Shivers’ 25 years at the Forsyth fire department. He noted the county had poultry fires and smaller farm fires over the years but losing that many horses was “horrible.”
“It’s awful,” the division chief told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “And I can’t imagine the loss those families are feeling right now.”
Forsyth fire crews were on their way to check out reports of smoke on Old Preserve Trail around 6 a.m. Sunday when the call was upgraded to a structure fire. The area, which sits in the northwest part of the county, is filled with many small farms and land cut for hay.
Firefighters arrived to find flames overwhelming the 32-stall barn on Blue Springs Farm. The farm has been there so long that crews had to travel through a subdivision that was built around it, Shivers said.
It was clear the fire had raged “for quite some time,” fire officials said, and the crews were forced into a defensive position.
Blue Springs Farm stated that 24 horses boarded at the facility were killed. Fire officials had the count higher, but that they were still working to confirm remains. The barn was a total loss. No firefighters or people were injured in the fire, and the cause remains under investigation. Other horses grazing in the nearby pasture were not harmed but were stressed by the ordeal, Shivers noted.
Blue Springs Farm, which has been owned and operated by the Blue family since 2002, is a facility that offers riding lessons, training for equestrian competitions, year-round camps for children and boarding for horses, its website stated.
“We do not have words because we are in shock of this devastating loss,” said Renee Henderson, who is organizing a GoFundMe page on behalf of the farm. The horses “made immeasurable impacts in hundreds of lives,” she said.
Shivers said some of the responding firefighters also grew up on farms with horses and cattle, and his department took care to check on them in the aftermath.
“It’s not unexpected that there will be some stress and sadness that goes along with that. We are not mindless superheroes. We have emotions and feelings like everyone else,” he noted. “But our job is to perform at 100% during the worst of times, and that’s exactly what they did.”
As of Monday morning, the structure was too unstable for investigators to enter it. Blue Springs Farm confirmed that it owned six of the horses, while Carney Performance Horses owned the other 18. Fire officials said they are still trying to get in touch with the owners and confirm the count on their end. Managing the animals’ remains during the investigation will be a further challenge.
“You want to help (the owners) through that, but it’s still August in Georgia. And the practicality of the matter, of course, demands that that’s got to get addressed quickly,” Shivers said. Still, he understood that for many, horses are not just animals; they are family members.
Henderson said donations to the fundraiser will go directly to Blue Springs Farm. As of late Monday afternoon, more than $30,000 had been raised. A young girl who showed one of the horses killed in the fire will also host a lemonade stand at the entrance to the subdivision at 10 a.m. on Saturday.
“God reminds us that his promises are new every morning,” the farm wrote on Facebook, sharing a photo of the rainbow above the burned barn. “We are blown away by everyone’s generosity and support.”