The fire at Sunnybrook Stables on Victoria Day, which killed 16 horses, has hit Toronto’s equestrian community hard.
“This disaster claimed the lives of so many horses for whom I had so much affection,” said Alexandra Meghji, a member of the Canadian Dressage Team, who had learned to ride on a pony named Pomona at Sunnybrook Stables when she was eight years old.
“It is truly heartbreaking,” the 20-year-old said in an email from University College of London on the day of the fire.
Police and fire crews had been called to the scene just after 3 a.m. Monday morning. It was a two-alarm blaze with 50 to 60 responders involved.
Fire crews used an aerial, as well as 65-mm hoses to put out the blaze which burned the north stable to its foundation.
Four fire crews were on scene to help save 13 horses who were corralled into a secondary stable, acting platoon chief Glenn Sherwood said.
“The crews on scene contained them and then three other crews assisted police in removing them and putting them into another barn and held them there,” he told reporters at a temporary media area close to the stables.
Late in the morning, Sergeant Sean Cosgrove also confirmed at the scene that the park was closed to pedestrian and vehicular traffic out of safety concerns. Police and fire were unsure whether any of the horses had escaped into the park.
Officials could not confirm whether the blaze was arson. The fire marshal is investigating.
“It’s the type of structure where the smallest thing goes you could go wrong,” Toronto fire spokesperson Stephan Powell told Streeter.
Police are also asking the community to come forward with any information regarding the fire.
Meghji said she was deepy upset by the fire.
“Sunnybrook ignited my love for horses and gave me a riding foundation upon which I could build my skills and ultimately progress to riding for the Canadian Dressage Team,” she wrote, adding she’s been a teacher there for the past two years.
“This is such saddening news,” she said. “I’m so grateful to the first responders who were able to save some of the horses.”
The park was 70 percent open to the public by the early afternoon, according to police spokesperson Gary Long.
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