UPDATE: Barn fire kills 11 horses in Milford

Milford. Fire Chief Jeff Christensen said the three-alarm fire had 18 pieces of apparatus operating on the scene, 16 fire departments responding, and more than 90,000 gallons of water used to extinguish the blaze. A GoFundMe site has already raised money to cover veterinarian bills for an injured horse, is now collecting money to replace the lost barn.

| 04 Sep 2019 | 07:30

Editor's note: This story has been updated with a report from the fire chief.

A fire that broke out at a barn in Milford, Pa., on Friday, Aug. 30, killed 11 horses.

Only two of the horses survived. One, named Uptown, was afflicted with third-degree burns, and one was not injured.

A relief fund set up on GoFundMe raised half of its $10,000 goal as of Tuesday afternoon. Anastasia Ryman, who with her husband, Eddie, owns the barn at 171 Schocopee Road, said the amount raised already covers the veterinarian bills for the injured horse. The fund is still collecting to replace the barn, which was uninsured. Ryman said their insurance company would not cover the barn until it was 100 percent completed, and it was only 80 percent completed at the time of the fire.

Ryman also said she is "99 percent sure" the cause of the fire is arson. She said that was what the fire marshal told her in the initial assessment.

The Milford Fire Department responded to the fire. Fire Chief Jeff Christensen said that when he arrived at the scene, he found a three-story barn "with fire showing on all three floors."

Christensen performed a "360," which is an assessment the chief makes of the situation before the fire apparatus arrives.

"At a structure fire I need to check all four sides of the structure to assess the hazards, and contact our communication center by radio to request additional resources as needed," he wrote in an email to The Courier.

While Christensen was doing the assessment the owner arrived and told him there were horses in the barn and pointed out which door should be opened to allow the horses to escape. He said one horse was not in the barn at the time of the fire, and one horse escaped when the door was opened.

"I crawled over to the corner of the door and could hear the horses struggling to escape," Christensen said. "When I managed to get the door open, a single horse jumped over me and out of the barn, quickly followed by smoke and flames. The interior fire conditions made it impossible for me to enter the barn, and no other horses made it out."

Shortly after that, the fire crew arrived on scene and began to fight the fire. But because of the heavy fire conditions and partial collapse of the barn, the crew was unable to enter the structure, Christensen said.

"As our mutual aid companies arrived, we established multiple master streams and a tanker shuttle to maintain a consistent flow of water onto the fire," he said. "This was a three-alarm fire, and we had 18 pieces of fire apparatus in operation on this scene. Due to the amount of fire and the deteriorating condition of the barn, all operations were defensive in nature, with over 90,000 gallons of water used to extinguish the fire."

Once the fire was extinguished, the firefighters began spreading out the debris with the assistance of Morgan Site Contractors of Matamoras and an excavator. This process extinguished hot spots and separated the remains of the horses from the collapsed structure, said Christensen.

He said the cause of the fire is currently under investigation by the Pennsylvania State Police.

"The Milford Fire Department would like to thank all of the departments who responded, for all of their hard work and support with this incident," he said.

Fire departments who assisted included Dingman, Westfall, Matamoras, Delaware, Shohola, Greeley, and Hemlock Farms in Pennsylvania; Branchville, Sandyston, and Montague in New Jersey; and Port Jervis, Huguenot, Sparrowbush, Greenville, and Lumberland in New York.

Christensen said the Pike County Humane Society responded to assist with the injured horse, and the Pike County EMA provided its foam trailer.

In addition to the chief, Milford firefighters on the scene included the assistant chief, Eric Jakubowski; captain, Mike Bello; firefighters Matt Adames, Erik Christensen Sr., Eric Langberg, Dave Laney, Liam Collins, and Matt Lombardo; and EMTs Terri Christensen and Jill Mann.

The GoFundMe site called the fire "a nightmare come true for our local town." It says the injured horse "is currently at one of the top equestrian veterinarians for around the clock care."

"No amount is too small!" the site says in soliciting donations. "Let us come together in this tragic time to help these poor horses. Updates will be posted as soon as we have them. Thank you all for your support!"

Recent horse tragedies
24 Standardbred racehorses died in June 2018, when a a fire broke out in one of the barns at the Mount Hope Training Center in Middletown, Orange County, N.Y.
9 horses starved to death in a locked barn at Argus Farm in Goshen, Orange County, N.Y. Their carcasses were discovered in August 2017. Their owner, Jeanne Ryan, is currently serving a two-year sentenced for aggravated animal cruelty.