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BARN FIRE RULED ACCIDENTAL, BUT CAUSE UNKNOWN

By Liz Zemba PittsburghLive.com Tribune-Review April 11, 2006

A fire that destroyed a 70-year-old barn at a Hempfield Township equestrian center was accidental, but the cause is unknown.

Doug Fordyce, Hempfield Township fire investigator, said he was unable to determine what sparked the fire Saturday at Westmoreland Equestrian Center on Route 66.

None of the center's 40 horses, which include brood mares, border horses, yearlings and studs, was hurt. Stable workers who evacuated the horses from a steel-built indoor stable and arena adjacent to the barn also were unhurt.

The barn, several tractors, building materials, spare tires, planting seed, a nearby motor home and 5,000 bales of hay were destroyed.

Abbe Wagenblast, who lives in a home on the center's property with owner Ron Ray, on Monday said the horses were unfazed by the fire. She said at least a week's worth of hay was spared, and the stockpile will be replenished.

Wagenblast said the fire occurred at a time of year when hay is available from suppliers.

"Thank heavens it wasn't earlier in the year when it's hard to get hay, like in the dead of winter," Wagenblast said yesterday. "We were fortunate."

Services were not disrupted by the fire and boarding, training and breeding continue.

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