At least 31 thoroughbred race horses were killed last night in a barn fire at a training center on state property in Cecil County, a spokesman for the state fire marshal's office said.
The fire, reported about 6:40 p.m. at the Fair Hill Natural Resources Management Area about 2 miles south of the Pennsylvania border, quickly destroyed a 70-foot-by-150-foot barn housing 35 horses, said Deputy State Fire Marshal W. Faron Taylor.
FOR THE RECORD - This story incorrectly stated the number of horses that died. 24 horses died in the barn fire. (Unpublished correction)
An adjacent building also was destroyed, Taylor said. The fire was under investigation.
Taylor said the horses are owned by JoKyle Inc., and that the training center is leased to the corporation by the state Department of Natural Resources.
At least 100 firefighters from stations in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Delaware responded to the blaze, which was declared under control about 8 p.m.
Graham Motion, a trainer who owns an adjacent barn, said he heard about the fire about 7:30 p.m. and rushed to the scene. His barn was undamaged.
Motion said the intensity of the fire made it difficult to rescue the horses - except for four in an outer area of the barn that were freed by a trainer.
"It was unfortunate that we weren't able to get more out," Motion said. "There was very little that could be done by the time they got there."
Motion called the fire "absolutely devastating," and added, "I can't imagine dealing with anything worse. You're dealing with the loss of animals. It's not the barn. You're dealing with live animals."