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14 horses killed in Bedford riding academy fire, 8 rescued by neighbors

Union Leader Correspondent

September 06. 2012 11:51AM
A large barn at Perry Hill Farm in Bedford burned to the ground this morning. (DAVE LANE/UNION LEADER)

BEDFORD - A three-alarm fire destroyed a barn at Perry Hill Farm Thursday morning, killing 14 horses, officials said.

According to Fire Chief Scott Wiggin, firefighters from nearly a dozen towns provided mutual aid at the blaze, which was reported by a passing jogger about 8:30 a.m.

When responders arrived at the scene, Wiggin said, the 10,000 square-foot barn was engulfed in flame. Neighbors had helped rescue eight of the 22 horses inside, as well as one pig.

The farm, owned by Harriet Finks and her daughter Elissa Finks, is a full-service equestrian academy, serving children of all ages, according to its website.

Harriet Finks purchased the property, once known as Cricket Hill Farm, in 2007. The farm is home to 24 horses and ponies, according to the site, some of which were rescued from neglectful situations so that they could be rehabilitated and used in teaching children.

A statement released today through the Finks' attorney, John G. Cronin of Manchester, said, "The Finks Family is devastated by the events that developed this morning. The fire resulted in the death of several horses, all animals considered to be members of the Finks' family. We were asked to extend the family's appreciation to the neighbors who provided notice of the fire and made heroic efforts to rescue several animals before firefighters arrived on the scene. Due to their efforts, several horses were saved. Many thanks to the first responders, volunteers and all others who continue to provide comfort, support and assistance."

Wiggin said the structure was a total loss.

With no internal walls in the barn, Wiggin said, 'There was no ability to compartmentalize the fire spread.' Firefighters were able to keep the fire from spreading to a nearby caretaker's cottage.

Water was brought to the scene with tanker trucks, and the fire was under control within an hour. According to Wiggin, there was nothing to indicate the fire was suspicious, but the cause is under investigation.

The American Red Cross Disaster Action Team was on the scene, assisting the 75 firefighters from 10 surrounding towns with cool drinks and snacks, and a safe haven, while battling the blaze.

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