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Damage from fire at Augusta horse ranch nearly $500,000

Augusta Fire Department Lt. Tim Follis investigates an overnight stable fire at Palmer Ranch west of Augusta on Monday morning.  (Jan. 5, 2015)
Augusta Fire Department Lt. Tim Follis investigates an overnight stable fire at Palmer Ranch west of Augusta on Monday morning. (Jan. 5, 2015) The Wichita Eagle

Before a fire that caused nearly $500,000 in damage Sunday night, Palmer Ranch was planning an equestrian show later this month.

That show has now been postponed, barn operator Lindsay Nichols said Tuesday, as she works with insurance officials to assess the damage and on getting more than a dozen horses “back into a normal routine.”

All of the horses in the barn at the time were rescued from the fire, Nichols said. But equipment essential to caring for the horses was lost.

As for when the ranch will resume operations, Nichols said she isn’t sure.

“At this point, it’s just so early,” she said.

On the basis of a preliminary investigation, Augusta public safety officials think the fire was caused by electrical problems.

LaKimbra Baldwin, a friend of Nichols’, said she has been working to collect donations through the Williams Ace Hardware store in Andover, where she works in the feed department. She said Nichols and her husband, Shane, have been customers since the ranch opened.

“They lost everything,” Baldwin said.

Baldwin said many of her other customers are also clients of Palmer Ranch.

“So we wanted to make sure that they knew we wanted to support them in every way possible,” she said.

Baldwin said many people brought in donations Monday morning, “within hours” of finding out about the fire. So far, she said, she has collected a few hundred dollars in cash and several checks, in addition to equipment like buckets, hoses and pitchforks.

Tractor Supply Co. in Augusta is collecting donations as well.

Nichols said she wanted to thank everyone who donated for their “tremendous help.” She said the horses, with help from the donated equipment, are doing well.

“They’re such resilient creatures,” she said.

Tyler Brewer, Augusta chief of police, said two investigators are still working to confirm the cause. He said the investigation should conclude in the next couple of days.

Nichols said it was an old barn, so it could have been “any number of things.”

Brewer said that even though the fire was a setback for the ranch, he’s confident the Nicholses will recover.

“They’re hardy souls,” he said.

Reach Jake Trease at jtrease@wichitaeagle.com.

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