12/12/2003 1:00AM

Barn fire kills 22 horses


Twenty-two horses, most of them believed to be Thoroughbred racehorses, died in an early-morning fire Friday at Cross International Training Center near Henderson, Ky.

Eighteen of the horses died in the barn, and four that had escaped from the blaze were euthanized because of their severe injuries. Kentucky State Police and local fire officials were still investigating the fire at 5 p.m. Friday, and losses were estimated to be approximately $500,000. At least some of the horses in the barn were trained or owned by Steve LaRue. Others were owned by at least three different owners, one from Indiana.

Bill Shaw of the Baskett Volunteer Fire Department said his department got the alarm at 4:17 a.m. Friday but found on arrival that the barn's roof already had collapsed. "We think the fire had probably started between 3:15 and 3:30," Shaw said. "By the time we got the alarm, it was already fully involved."

Shaw said he called in for support from neighboring Zion, Niagara, and Spottsville fire departments and from the Henderson City/County Rescue Squad, all volunteer organizations. With the barn already destroyed, the units focused their efforts on protecting nearby structures, including one barn immediately adjacent that also had 18 horses in it. The fire departments did not leave the scene until close to noon, and no other horses or people were injured in the blaze.