21 horses rescued after barn fire breaks out at popular equestrian center in Templeton

TEMPLETON, Mass. — Nearly two dozen horses were rescued when a multi-alarm barn fire broke out at a popular equestrian center in Templeton on Thursday night.

There were 21 horses inside the barn when the fire broke out at Liberty-Belle Stables at 551 Patriot’s Road just after 9 p.m. Thursday, and all made it out safely, fire officials said Friday.

“This was the second five-alarm fire we responded to in two weeks,” Templeton Fire Chief David Dickie said in a statement Friday. “I want to recognize the enormous work put in by Templeton firefighters, Templeton police, and all our mutual aid partners. We’re fortunate and deeply grateful that no injuries were reported.”

Templeton police officers were first on scene and saw smoke and fire at a home with a large horse training facility nearby. Officers contacted the fire department, and a second alarm was struck for a working fire, Dickie said.

The fire grew to 5 alarms, and drew a mutual aid response from several neighboring communities, including Athol, Ashburnham, Barre, Fitchburg, Gardner, Hubbardston, Phillipston, Royalston, Westminster, and Winchendon.

Shortly after firefighters arrived, the fire spread to the horse training facility, where about six horses were still inside and 15 were just outside the facility.

“All people and animals were removed safely and there were no injuries to first responders or civilians,” Dickie said.

Video and photographs from the scene show the barn engulfed in heavy flames, with smoke billowing from the structure as firefighters battled the blaze.

The horse training facility is considered a total loss, but the house was only partially damaged, the fire chief said. One person was displaced by the fire.

“The barn is on fire. We got horses out side (sic),” Liberty-Belle Stables said in a Facebook post at 9:42 p.m. Thursday.

Hours later, at 4:35 a.m., the equestrian center asked patrons to post their memories of spending time there.

“Please help us by telling a happy story, or someway that Liberty-Belle has touched your life. We need all the good memories we can get,” the post said. “This place was my dream, and I went into it with one of the best instructors out there. I could not ask for a better barn family. We are so grateful to have you all.”

In response, Staci Vaillancourt wrote, “So many memories at this barn. It’s where I learned to ride 30 years ago. It began my love for horses. Which is still a huge part of my life. My heart hurts for everyone involved.”

In another post, Betty Muise wrote, “Glad you got the horses out. That is such a miracle! Everyone is safe and you can rebuild. Still so sad to see your barn burn down. You are in my thoughts and prayers.”

Dickie thanked Templeton first responders, as well the local Templeton/Winchendon Animal Control, the Salvation Army, and the Red Cross “for all their help during the fire and its aftermath.”

The cause of the fire remains under investigation by the Templeton Fire Department, District 8 Fire Investigation Unit, and the State Police Fire & Explosion Investigation Unit assigned to the State Fire Marshal’s office.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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