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Scott Reflects On First Line Fire

Published: March 13, 2019 4:35 pm ET

Last Comment: March 13, 2019 10:06 pm ET | 1 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

“You never think it would happen to you and one of your horses until one day you wake up to a phone call in the middle of the night,” recounts Sarah Scott, member of the horse racing community for over 20 years, and owner of Fork.

Since the First Line barn fire in December, Scott has not only been busy with her horse’s recovery, but also spreading awareness of fire prevention programs.

Sarah works at System Equine in Rockwood, Ont. as an account manager specializing in equine rehabilitation. System Equine will be hosting a Barn Fire Prevention and action plan evening on March 19 at 6 p.m. Special guest speakers will include TJ Snow of the Milton Fire Department, Riley McGilloway of Halton Hills Fire Department, and Dr. Liz Shiland DVM (one of several vets who assisted at the First Line fire). Scott will also be sharing her experience as a horse owner.

Multiple topics will be discussed during the March 19 event, including barn fire prevention, what to do in case of fire with horses and/or animals, and fire safety and caring for horses after they have been exposed to smoke inhalation and fire trauma. Barn owners need to be ever vigilant with barn fire prevention, never get complacent, and always prepare themselves for emergencies.

Additionally, Equine Guelph will be offering a new Fire & Emergency Preparedness online short course on TheHorsePortal.ca from April 8 – 15.

Sarah’s Story

We celebrated our staff Christmas party at Mohawk on December 20, having a great time filling the night with Christmas cheer. I arrived home, around 12:30 a.m. and settled into bed shortly after 1 a.m. I was awoken by my husband to the words “the barn is on fire and there is nothing we can do.” I was instantly numb. I felt almost robotic as I grabbed some clothes, and drove to what was our horses’ home, now landmarked by police cars directing fire trucks. The car did not even come to a complete stop before I jumped out.

When I arrived no one knew where my own horse was, but we knew he was out. It was dark, raining and the most unsettling of sights, with red and blue flashing lights intermingling with the mist. I was told it took two firefighters and one of the second trainers to move my horse, Fork, from his stall with singed facial and mane hair from the inferno. He escaped and was taken to another barn on the property and placed in an empty stall.

Emergency Response

Scott quickly joined the growing team of firefighters, owners and veterinarians triaging the scene. They were fortunate to have a number of containment areas with other barns close by, a pool area that held three horses, and paddocks to hold the horses after they were removed from Barn 7. Other factors that aided the rescue were rain, wind blowing away from the barn, and educated/experienced horsepeople on scene that did not pull open the doors until fire and rescue arrived.

Each horse was evaluated and treated by the attending veterinarians before they were given the green light to go to Mohawk. When the horses arrived at Mohawk (for temporary stabling) they were all bathed and once again looked over for burns or distress. Black soot was embedded in the horses’ hair, leading to the conclusion the lungs must also be compromised. Fears of smoke inhalation damage were confirmed with the first scope. The owners were worried if their horses would be OK, racked with questions if they were suffering, and if they would ever race again. It was a quick-paced day with lots of decisions.

Scott’s expertise served her well. She had previously worked with clients, vets and owners whose horses were affected by the encroaching wildfires in BC and Alberta. She had supplied them with nebulizers from System Equine that were donated by Nortev Flexineb and had assisted the equine practitioners in developing treatment cycles. Scott had never imagined that she would be implementing a similar treatment plan for her own horse who had won his race just a few short weeks before.


Since the first line fire in December, Sarah Scott has not only been busy with Fork’s recovery, but also spreading awareness of fire prevention programs (Photo courtesy Carey Lecain)

The team worked diligently with the vets following up on the temperatures, discharge, vitals and overall observation. Scott is very grateful to everyone involved with the rescue and rehabilitation, including her employers at System Equine and Nortev for supplying the nebulizers aiding in the recovery of many of the horses. Scott’s prayers have been answered, as subsequent testing and scoping showed no signs of soot and no residual inflammation in the lungs. Sarah is also very grateful to her husband, Mark, who was so supportive, as he worked tirelessly caring for both of them. “He truly is the reason Fork has returned to the racetrack,” Sarah has said. Fork is in the clear and has now raced twice since the fire.

Final Thoughts

Sarah will forever be a fire prevention crusader and advocate of having a plan. No matter how busy life gets, she will never turn her phone off at night. Much reflection takes place after an incident, from the simple things like having emergency numbers in your phone to having the fire department out to do a pre-plan.

Having halters, leads, pens and paper quickly accessible, clear barn aisles, feed tubs positioned so they are not in the way of exiting a stall are some of the little details that can make a big difference in an emergency.

Looking back on the chaos, there is much gratitude for the community who rallied together. Thanks and huge acknowledgements must be given to the first responders, the community who all sprung from their beds in the dead of the night and for everyone who came together to support the rescue.

Sarah hopes sharing her story will move people to take preventative measures and looks forward to seeing large attendance both at the Fire & Emergency Preparedness online short course on TheHorsePortal.ca from April 8 – 15 and at System Equine’s Barn Fire Prevention and action plan evening on March 19 at 6 p.m., which will also be available via live feed.

(Equine Guelph)

March 13, 2019 - 10:06 pmSuch a tragedy :(

Such a tragedy :(


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