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Cause of deadly horse farm fire sought; arson not suspected

Fire officials are investigating a number of leads as they search for the origin of a deadly fire that destroyed a barn of show horses in McHenry County.

“As of right now, we have declared the fire as accidental of an undetermined cause,” said Tony Huemann, chief of the McHenry County Fire Protection District. “We don’t suspect anybody set that” intentionally.

The fire that broke out Wednesday evening killed 18 horses, said Debra Quackenbush, spokeswoman for the McHenry County Health Department. At the time of the fire, 40 horses were in the barn and 22 were rescued, Quackenbush said.

The chief said investigators are looking into whether a charcoal grill, a heat lamp or possibly a controlled burn could have sparked the blaze, which occurred at the Black Tie Stables in unincorporated McHenry County steps from the Lake County line.

“We can’t rule out by 100 percent any of the rumors,” Huemann said.

Quackenbush said that many of the deceased horses were identified through the types of shoes they wore. One horse was identified through dental records. She also said that some foals were among the horse that died, but said she did not have an exact count the ratio of foals to mature animals that perished.

Surviving horses have been moved to other commercial stables and private farms, she said.

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