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MCHENRY TOWNSHIP, Ill. (CBS) – McHenry County officials said at least 18 horses died in a fire at the Black Tie Stable near Johnsburg on Wednesday, and two horses were still missing as of Thursday afternoon.
WBBM Newsradio’s Steve Miller talked with a woman who helped take some horses to safety.
Horse trainer Lisa White said, “It looked like a war zone.”
White owns John White Stables in Woodstock. She went to Black Tie Stable on Wednesday to help save as many horses as she could, after an extra-alarm fire broke out in the barn.
“Horses were being walked down the middle of the road, with fire trucks on each side of them, and the lights flashing,” she said. “For the most parts, the horses that I was around, they walked really good, and they were scared, but they got on the trailer safely, and we were able to get them out of there.”
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White said it was a heartbreaking scene for everyone that was there.
The fire broke out around 5 p.m. Wednesday at the barn at Black Tie Stable, at 101 W. Bay Rd., just east of Johnsburg in unincorporated McHenry County.
Initially, officials said 7 horses were killed in the blaze, and 24 others were rescued. But on Thursday, officials raised the death toll to at least 18 after sifting through the rubble of the destroyed barn. That number could rise even higher.
Two other horses were still missing as of Thursday afternoon.
Debra Quackenbush, spokeswoman for the McHenry County Health Department, says they’re asking for the public’s help in looking for the two missing horses.
“Time is of the essence,” she said. “We’re really hoping we that we get as many people as possible to help in the search for those animals. We will continue that search. It’s really difficult to know how far they may have gotten in the time frame since the fire.”
The bodies of the dead horses were found on both the east side and the west side of the 30,000-square-foot stable, according to McHenry Township Fire Protection District Chief Tony Huemann.
He said investigators looking into the cause of the blaze have focused their probe on the caretaker’s quarters, the residential area of the barn.
Some neighbors said they heard a barbecue, a bonfire, or a controlled burn was taking place behind the stable just before it caught fire.
The 24 horses that were rescued have been taken to temporary shelters at neighboring farms and stables until they can be moved to new permanent homes.
White took in three horses that were rescued.
“I had girls calling last night, asking if I had their horse; and I took a picture and sent it to them, and they cried, calling me back, saying, ‘No, that’s not him,’” “So, I mean, there is a lot of girls that had their horse at the farm that, you know, last night still didn’t know where their horse was. … Yeah, it’s tough.”
Most of Black Tie’s horses are Arabians.
Little of the barn remained standing after the blaze, except for tin portions of the northern wall.
A total of 21 fire departments responded to the blaze, most of them providing tanker trucks to bring water to the scene, as there were no hydrants near the stable.