Horses rescued from St Albans stables arson

PUBLISHED: 08:22 28 May 2009 | UPDATED: 14:07 06 May 2010

Staff and horses at the Oaklands College stables

Staff and horses at the Oaklands College stables

TWO terrified horses were rescued from a blazing barn by brave staff at an equestrian centre targeted by arsonists. A straw stack in a stable block at Oaklands College s Smallford agricultural campus in Hatfield Road was set alight at about 10pm last Wedn

TWO terrified horses were rescued from a blazing barn by brave staff at an equestrian centre targeted by arsonists.

A straw stack in a stable block at Oaklands College's Smallford agricultural campus in Hatfield Road was set alight at about 10pm last Wednesday, May 20.

Five crews of firefighters, including two from St Albans, rushed to the scene where they found the 20 metre by 30 metre block containing seven stables engulfed in flames and three members of staff trying to rescue two horses from the inferno.

A straw stack was set on fire in the block which also contains a barn area and a tack room.

St Albans watch commander Pete Hatherley said: "On arrival we were confronted with an open barn full of straw well alight and it had started spreading into the stable area. Three members of staff were with the horses in the stables but one of them was too scared and wouldn't come out."

"So we started our fire-fighting actions and put a protective curtain spray between the fire and the horses."

The horse was eventually led out of the building after the flames died down.

The firefighters were also met with reports that three unknown people seen going into the stables hadn't been accounted for.

They entered the block wearing breathing apparatus to conduct a thorough search for people using a thermal imaging camera, but nobody was inside.

The crews left the scene at around midnight and firefighters from St Albans returned to the scene at around 2am on Thursday morning to ensure the blaze had not reignited.

Watch commander Hatherley said that the rapid actions of the firefighters had saved the structure of the building but the interior would need refurbishment work.

He also commended the actions of the equestrian centre's staff, three of whom received treatment for minimal smoke inhalation from paramedics at the scene.

College principle Mark Dawe also praised his "brave" staff, in particular Annabel Montgomery, Matt Bolton and Julie Williams who rescued the horses from the blaze.

"I'm very proud - it was a brave thing to do. Horses are not small animals and are not easy to deal with when they are scared like that."

He said that the plastic on the roof of the building melted and collapsed into the stables just after the last horse was rescued.

The equestrian centre, which has around 40 horses in total, was forced to close last week while the police and fire investigation was carried out but it is now up and running again.

Mr Dawe said the staff had done a "fantastic" job of cleaning up the yard but estimated that the damage to the building and the equipment inside would cost around £20,000.

Police arrested a girl and two boys, all aged 15 and from St Albans, on suspicion of arson on the night of the fire. The two boys were subsequently charged and released on bail.

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