Barn fire kills 8 horses

RED SPRINGS — A fire killed eight horses Sunday in a barn at The Heritage Park Training Facility in Red Springs. Eight more survived.

“We haven’t determined the exact cause yet but we’re almost 100 percent sure it was electric,” Red Springs Fire Department Chief John Ammons said. “There was nothing suspicious about the fire.”

Ammons said his department was dispatched at 9:41 p.m. and when firefighters arrived they were met with heavy smoke and fire was visible from the building. They saved eight of the horses but the other died of smoke inhalation.

The Red Springs Fire Department had help from three volunteer departments, Shannon, Queheel and Smith’s. Ammons said it took about an hour to extinguish the fire but firefighters stayed on the scene for about two hours.

The breakers on one side of the breaker box were all tripped, which was probably due to a faulty fan that was used to keep the horses cool, Ammons said.

Ernie Locklear, the owner of the barn and training facility, said he was at the beach when the fire happened.

He said private owners bring them to the center, where they are trained to race.

The barn, located on Jockey Lane, housed 16 horses. The horses killed were two thoroughbreds and six quarterhorses. Locklear said two of the horses had been there for less than a week.

“In today’s market, they (horses) bring only about $200 each. Now, some can bring $400 to $500. That’s if they’re lucky, someone got to want that horse bad,” said Locklear.

Locklear and his workers spent Monday assessing the damages and removing the rubble from the fire.

Jonathan Gabino, a 13-year-old farmhand, said he took the news hard.

“It looked bad. I just found out when I came in this morning,” he said. “And it happened on Father’s Day you know.”

Gabino said that he grew attached to the horses after spending time taking care of them.

Locklear will probably bury the horses on his land, he said.

“I just hate it happened. Sometime you don’t have no control over stuff,” Locklear said.

Tomeka Sinclair

Staff writer

Tomeka Sinclair can be reached at 910-416-5865 or at