05/11/2003 11:00PM

Fire kills 22 horses in Ontario


TORONTO, Ontario - Twenty-two Thoroughbreds died Friday in a fire that destroyed a barn at Woodlands, a farm and training center in Hillsburgh, Ontario.

Gail Wood, a consignor and breeder who is the proprietor of Woodlands, said an emergency call was placed at 6:11 p.m. Friday, and that while the fire department responded promptly, flames had engulfed the building by 6:30 p.m.

Four horses were rescued from the blaze.

Maureen and Rick Rowley, who work for Woodlands and live in an apartment above the barn, escaped unharmed along with their three children, though the family lost all their possessions.

Woodlands, located about 50 minutes north of Woodbine, specializes in sales preparation, boarding and layups, training, foaling, and bloodstock consultation.

All of the horses killed in the fire were racehorses. Most had yet to start.

"Almost all of them were 2-year-olds, ready to go to the track," said Wood. "They were just waiting for stalls."

Trainers who lost horses in the fire include Emile Allain, Josie Carroll, Mike DePaulo, Phil Gracey, and Red Johnson. Owners included Don Daynard, Thor Eaton, Jean-Guy Gauthier, Peter Marko, Bill Schettine, Mark Stubbs, and Spiro Tanti.

Wood, along with her husband and business partner, Dan Steeves, said they plan to begin work on a new barn as soon as possible.

The Ontario Fire Marshall's office is continuing an investigation into the cause of the fire.