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Community aids ranchers after fire destroys Butler County horse barn

Augusta Fire Department Lt. Tim Follis investigates an overnight stable fire at Palmer Ranch west of Augusta Monday morning. About 20 horses escaped injury, said Joe Pierce who was boarding two horses at the stable. (Jan. 5, 2015)
Augusta Fire Department Lt. Tim Follis investigates an overnight stable fire at Palmer Ranch west of Augusta Monday morning. About 20 horses escaped injury, said Joe Pierce who was boarding two horses at the stable. (Jan. 5, 2015) The Wichita Eagle

Local horse owners are coming together to help one of their own after fire destroyed a large barn west of Augusta late Sunday.

More than a dozen horses were being boarded in the barn at Palmer Ranch on the north side of U.S. 54 about two miles west of Augusta, but the owners and an Augusta police officer arriving on the scene of the fire were able to rescue them all.

“They started yanking open doors and kicking out horses as fast as they could,” said LaKimbra Baldwin, Purina feed manager at Williams Ace Hardware in Andover, who is a close friend of the ranchers’.

The fire was reported at 11:07 p.m. at 9716 SW U.S. 54, Augusta Police Chief Tyler Brewer said.

Someone driving by on the highway saw embers and called the ranchers, Baldwin said. They looked out the window and saw smoke coming from the east side of the barn where hay is stored in the overhang.

By the time they reached the barn, Baldwin said, it was engulfed in flames.

Augusta firetrucks arrived at the ranch, and officials called for additional assistance, Brewer said. Firetrucks came from Leon, Douglass, Rose Hill, Andover and Benton.

It took the firefighters more than two hours to put out the fire, which wasn’t declared extinguished until about 1:30 a.m. Monday, Brewer said. Early indications suggest an electrical problem caused the fire, he said, but further investigation is planned.

Horses “typically want to stay in their stalls,” Baldwin said. “Some they had to just shove them out and kick them out several times.”

One mare was particularly difficult to get out of the stall, she said. But all 14 horses stabled in the barn were saved.

It took the ranchers several hours to track down the spooked horses and get them into pens, Baldwin said.

The fire also destroyed a tractor, skid steer and tack room filled with equipment.

“Everything they would normally utilize to care for those horses on a daily basis is all gone,” Baldwin said.

Local horse owners are already stepping up to help, though.

One person donated 15 square bales of hay for the horses, Baldwin said. Others have come into the store and bought halters for the ranch. Dondlinger Construction donated a large generator.

“They have no way of keeping those (water) tanks free of ice,” Baldwin said.

Williams Ace Hardware in Andover is accepting donations for the family. Tractor Supply Co. in Augusta is collecting donations as well.

“There are a lot of people that have come in and actually bought some stuff for Palmer Ranch,” said Stephanie Bobbitt, a Tractor Supply employee. “There’s a lot of people asking how they can help.”

Friends on social media are asking for hoses, water buckets, tank heaters, extension cords, blankets and pitchforks. All of the horses are being kept in pens that have shelters, Baldwin said. That will be particularly important as another wave of cold air arrives Tuesday.

“It’s nice to see the horse community come together to try to help,” Baldwin said.

Reach Stan Finger at 316-268-6437 or sfinger@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @StanFinger.

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