Arson blamed in barn fire at Pimlico

November 21, 1990|By Dale Austin

An apparently accidental minor fire at Pimlico Race Course a week ago figured in the detection of a major flare-up Monday night that caused serious injury to one horse and cleared out an entire barn.

Baltimore fire investigators ruled yesterday that arson caused the Monday fire.

Barn No. 10, in the newer section of barns near Belvedere Avenue, was reported afire late Monday evening by Frank Vranish, a night lieutenant who was stationed atop the grandstand.

Vranish called the fire department, and all 25 thoroughbreds were moved out of the smoke-filled barn while the fire was extinguished. Twenty of the horses were trained by Bill Albright, and five were trained by J.B. Secor.

Fire investigators said yesterday that hay was set on fire to start the blaze, but that they still don't know why the fire was set or who set it.

All 25 horses were examined today, and all but one was found to be in good condition, according to Capt. Dennis Howell of the fire-investigation unit.

An arson detective will investigate both fires, Howell said.

"There was a minor fire in a barn sometime about a week ago," said Jim Mango, general manager of Pimlico and Laurel. "There was an indication that it was just caused by a cigarette dropped in the stall. But after that first fire, we decided to beef up the surveillance and our roving patrol. We put Frank on the roof, and he spotted the smoke. Had he not caught it when he did, I'm afraid it could have been much worse."

One Albright-trained 2-year-old filly, whose stall was nearest the fire, reportedly suffered serious internal injuries, especially in the nostrils, and was in critical condition.

"She's an unraced filly by Tim The Tiger," Albright said. "She might not make it, they [veterinarians] say. She took in so much smoke. It seems to be day-to-day, they say."

The water bucket at the front of the stall of another horse trained by Albright was melted, and the straw in his stall had caught fire.

"But an amazing thing is that he's not in too bad a shape," Albright said.

During the fire, stable employees and security workers rushed to take horses out of the barn. The smoke stayed in the shed row because plastic sheeting had been placed over the open areas to winterize them.

One security guard said he opened the bottom doors of the barn, which allowed some horses to leave, but other horses, scared by the odor and the heat, refused to leave.

"Some of the horses didn't have halters on," said one stable worker. "We would be outside until the fire department would spray water on our clothes, then we'd rush in with a belt, wrap it around a horse's neck and pull him out."

The barn was cleaned out by midday yesterday, and the horses were returned to their stalls.

Mango said the Pimlico security crew has begun to probe the incident.

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