Several horses killed in Ocala barn fire


A Marion County Fire Resue fire engine enters McKathan Farms after a fire killed several horses in a barn on the Reddick farm on Sunday in Ocala.

Alan Youngblood/Ocala Star-Banner
Published: Sunday, April 1, 2012 at 6:29 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, April 1, 2012 at 6:29 p.m.

Nine horses died Sunday at McKathan Farms during a barn fire in Reddick.

“It's really, really sad. It's terrible,” said J.B. McKathan, son to the owners of the farm — James and Jocelyn McKathan — following the blaze. “No one got (seriously) hurt. That was the blessing.”

J.B. Mckathan arrived at the farm after firefighters had already extinguished the flames.

The cause of the morning fire is as yet unknown but not suspicious, said Jessica Greene, spokeswoman for Marion County Fire Rescue. The state Fire Marshal's Office is investigating.

Greene said that firefighters reported that due to the “high heat” nature of the fire within the barn, the horses likely died from the heat and flames and not smoke inhalation.

One farm worker was injured during the blaze, suffering a few first-degree and second-degree burns, she said.

He did not want to go to the hospital for further treatment.

Firefighters received the telephone call at 10:31 a.m. and arrived at the 6939 West Highway 316 farm at 10:40 a.m. to find that 75 percent of the barn was engulfed in flames. It took firefighters 28 minutes before they had the fire under control.

Because the structure was unstable during the blaze, firefighters did not enter the barn, Greene said. Emergency workers also heard “small explosions” believed to aerosol cans igniting.

J.B. McKathan said a neighbor saw the fire and rushed to the barn to free the animals. The barn was 60 feet wide and about 200 feet long and was semi-enclosed.

Greene said the neighbor and farm workers managed to lead five horses to safety before firefighters arrived. Those horses are doing well. Three more were also rescued by the neighbor and farm workers as firefighters arrived; their fate is uncertain.

“But they were burned, so we don't know if they're going to make it,” McKathan said.

All of the dead and injured thoroughbred horses belonged to the farm's owners and not to clients, J.B. McKathan said.

Jocelyn McKathan would not comment to the Star-Banner by telephone, saying only that she was too upset to speak.

J.B. McKathan said his parents were returning from church when they saw firefighters at the scene.

The large number of horse deaths due to a fire in Marion County is not unique to McKathan Farms.

In 2002, an Ocala Stud Farm training barn caught fire, killing 22 horses, most belonging to clients of the farm.

Investigators believed the cause of that fire was an electrical malfunction, but no specific source was ever determined. No foul play was suspected in that fire.

The McKathan name is well known in the Ocala-area horse industry.

James B. “Luke” McKathan, owner of McKathan Farms, has raced both thoroughbred and quarter horses.

He has two sons who followed in the trade: J.B. McKathan and Kevin McKathan. The McKathan family moved to the Ocala area from South Florida to begin training and selling horses.

The McKathan family has had connections to several stakes horses during the past decades.

Reach Fred Hiers at fred.hiers@starbanner.com and 352-867-4157.

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