Eight thoroughbred racehorses were killed last night when a fire destroyed the historic Bowling Brook training barn in western Carroll County, a fire official said.
David Nelson, chief of the Union Bridge Volunteer Fire Company, said that one of the horses was valued at $100,000 and that the total loss, including horses, the 114-year-old building and its contents, was between $750,000 and $1 million.
Four horses escaped the inferno and were seen running across a pasture. One suffered smoke inhalation and was taken to a veterinarian for treatment, Nelson said.
Nelson said a volunteer firefighter from Union Bridge suffered smoke inhalation and was treated at the scene. Another suffered flu-like symptoms while battling the fire and was relieved of duty.
Nelson said the cause of the fire, which was reported at 11:23 p.m., is being investigated by the state fire marshal's office.
Bowling Brook, built in 1878, is in the 900 block of Crouse Mill Road off Middleburg Road in Middleburg about three miles west of Union Bridge.
The indoor galloping barn and adjoining farm was developed by trainer Wyndham Walden, a noted 19th century horseman who died in 1905. Walden produced a record seven Preakness winners at Bowling Brook, including Duke of Magenta, Saunterer, Grenada, Harold, Vanguard, Refund and Tom Ochiltree.
Walden's son, Robert, took over the farm and produced a Kentucky Derby winner, Manuel, in 1899.
In the 1950s, the complex was sold to the Raymond I. Richardson Foundation, which still operates the Bowling Brook Boy's Home, a home for juvenile offenders, in the main house and outbuildings. But the horse farm was allowed to fall into disrepair, until it was purchased in 1990 by Mark Gross, a developer and restaurateur.
Gross placed the farm under the county's farm preservation program and has been restoring it for use as a thoroughbred training center and a bed and breakfast inn.
Gross was not available for comment today.
Doris Kiser, who lives near the barn, said Gross had been restoring it for more than a year.
She said the facility is one of the oldest of its kind on the East Coast and was a popular site year-round.
The deadly fire at Bowling Brook was the second in just over 24 hours in which race horses were killed.
Early Sunday, a fire at Far Hill in Cecil County destroyed a horse barn and killed at least three thoroughbred horses.
The owner of that barn, Frank Kramer of Elkton, estimated the loss of the horses and barn at nearly $200,000.
The cause of the Elkton fire also remains under investigation, said Nelson.
Nelson said the fire at Bowling Brook was reported by employees who saw smoke and flames erupting from the huge, eight-sided building that housed at least a dozen horses and contained a training track, stalls, tack room and offices.
Nelson said that much of the wooden barn was engulfed in flames by the time his unit and others from Taneytown, Harney, New Windsor and Frederick County arrived at the scene.
He said the barn, which measured 150 feet wide by 300 feet long, collapsed in a mass of flames and smoke less than 30 minutes after it was reported.
Nelson described the scene inside the barn as "pathetic."
"When you see such beautiful animals lying dead in their stalls," he said, "it really makes you sad that such fine creatures will never race."
Nelson said there wasn't much the 70-plus firefighters could do but pour water on the rubble and wet down nearby buildings to prevent the fire from spreading.
"It really took off and we could see the flames long before we arrived on the scene," Nelson said.
He said water to battle the fire was pumped from ponds on the property and nearby Big Pipe creek.