08/02/2013 12:19PM

Louisiana training center fire cause being investigated


Fire officials on Friday were investigating a blaze at a training center near Louisiana Downs in Bossier City, La., that claimed the lives of 18 horses. The barn fire broke out just before 6 p.m. Thursday, and three area departments responded to the call, according to Bob Callahan, public educator for the Bossier Parish Fire District 1.

Callahan said there was no loss of human life in the blaze. He said as of Friday morning, the current count of lost horses was 18. Callahan said fire officials were at the training center, a privately-owned facility named River Point, on Friday.

“At this point, the fire is under investigation,” he said. “The city fire marshall is there right now. They haven’t determined the cause yet.

“Nobody was in the building at the time of the fire.”

Callahan said the barn was “fully involved” when firefighters arrived. It took crews until about 8:30 p.m. to knock down the fire, he said. Crews remained at the site Friday.

“We had a crew out there all night long, have a crew out there now, working hot spots, working with investigators,” said Callahan.

Callahan said there was a barn about three feet from the barn that caught fire, but it was unharmed.

Trainer Dwight Viator lost five horses in the blaze, including Look At the Time, a four-time stakes winner who earlier in the Louisiana Downs meet won the $50,000 John Franks Memorial. It is believed three other trainers lost horses in the blaze.

“The barn burned down to the ground,” Viator said. “A fire started in one of the living rooms, the only room that somebody was living in, and I don’t know, it just went in flames.

“I got at call at 6 p.m., was here in five, 10 minutes, and it was gone.”

Viator, who also has horses based at Louisiana Downs, where he operates one of the highest win-percentage stables, said it is the first time he has lost horses in a fire. He began training in the 1970s.

“What really hurts me, it’s the way the horses die,” he said. “The way those that don’t get out suffer. These horses are like my kids, and the way they died, that’s just not fair.”