Name of Townshend fire victim being withheld

TOWNSHEND — The name of the person who died in a five-alarm fire on Maggie Ladd Road is being withheld at this time, pending notification of kin.

The Townshend Fire Department responded to the Friesians of Majesty horse farm at 12:30 a.m. Sunday, finding a barn with an attached two-unit apartment fully engulfed in flames.

According to a press release from Det. Sgt. Larry Smith of the Vermont State Police Fire Investigation Unit, the barn was a large open bay barn with two separate apartments located above the barn.

During the blaze, which does not appear to be suspicious, according to the press release, Townshend Volunteer Fire Chief Douglas Winot was told that one person, an employee, was not accounted for.

"The entire barn had been consumed by fire and the second floor collapsed down onto the first," stated the press release. "The fire department was unable to locate the subject during fire fighting efforts."

After the fire was extinguished, investigators were able to talk with witnesses who told them the victim may have been in the area of the lab. "This was also the location where the fire appeared to have originated. After excavating the area investigators were able to locate the victim."

Firefighters were able to keep the flames from spreading to a nearby barn.

Robert Labrie, owner of Friesians of Majesty, said he opened the horse farm 17 years ago. He breeds, trains and sells Friesian horses.

The barn that burned down had been used for breeding. Labrie said he had no insurance on the barn, which was built in 2000 or 2001.

Of about 105 horses on the farm — and Labrie said that number changes all the time — seven were in the barn at the time of the fire. Three of the horses inside the barn were newborn babies and the other four horses were mothers. They were all saved by Labrie and two horse trainers who lived in apartments on top of the barn.

The two displaced horse trainers will still be staying on the property, in a cottage used for people who want to learn about the industry or have weekend getaways.

Asked how the other employees were taking the news, Labrie said, "It's hard."

He said the number of employees at the farm also varies.

The rescued horses did not experience any health issues from the fire, according to Labrie. The newborn horses will be staying in a barn behind the one that burned down.

"We took out stalls in the the stallion barn," Labrie said. "We're trying to utilize those for now."

The mothers will be out in the pastures and in run-in sheds on the property.

Due to the fire, water pipes had melted and power was out. During the interview, a generator was being used to run electricity to the stallion barn. That allowed Labrie to get water to the horses until electricians can get the power up and running again.

Labrie said neighbors had been giving the farm water, filling up a 250 gallon tank at intervals. The farm uses about 2,000 gallons of water a day.

Customers have also been pitching in to help, bringing hay and grain to the farm. And people from New York, Illinois, Massachusetts and Connecticut have come to volunteer.

No breeding can be done at the farm right now, Labrie said, having lost all his equipment and supplies which adds up to about $25,000.

But Labrie hopes to rebuild the barn.

"This is a really special place," he said. "With all the hundreds of e-mails we're receiving from people and all the lives we've touched through this place, I have to try to do everything I can to rebuild and keep this place going, the way God intended it to be. We've had so many great success stories that would have never occurred if it weren't for Friesians of Majesty and I don't know want those great success stories to have to stop."

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or @CMaysBR.


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