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  • Staff photo by Lance Booth


    A morning fire in Bedford killed 14 animals, which took place at Perry Hill Farm, a horse barn, on Thursday, September 6, 2012. A jogger saw the fire at 32 Perry Rd., and contacted fire fighters.
  • Staff photo by Lance Booth


    A morning fire in Bedford killed 14 animals, which took place at Perry Hill Farm, a horse barn, on Thursday, September 6, 2012. A jogger saw the fire at 32 Perry Rd., and contacted fire fighters.
  • Staff photo by Lance Booth


    Girls hug after seeing the damages of a morning fire in Bedford which killed 14 animals at Perry Hill Farm, a horse barn, on Thursday, September 6, 2012. A jogger saw the fire at 32 Perry Rd., and contacted fire fighters.
  • Staff photo by Lance Booth


    Bedford Fire Chief Scott Wiggin speaks to the media after morning fire in Bedford killed 14 animals, which took place at Perry Hill Farm, a horse barn, on Thursday, September 6, 2012. A jogger saw the fire at 32 Perry Rd., and contacted fire fighters.
  • Staff photo by Lance Booth


    A morning fire in Bedford killed 14 animals, which took place at Perry Hill Farm, a horse barn, on Thursday, September 6, 2012. A jogger saw the fire at 32 Perry Rd., and contacted fire fighters.
  • Staff photo by Lance Booth


    A group of people look onto the debris from a morning fire in Bedford killed 14 animals at Perry Hill Farm, a horse barn, on Thursday, September 6, 2012. A jogger saw the fire at 32 Perry Rd., and contacted fire fighters.
  • Staff photo by Lance Booth


    A woman and girl embrace after seeing the wreckage caused by morning fire in Bedford, which killed 14 animals at Perry Hill Farm, a horse barn, on Thursday, September 6, 2012. A jogger saw the fire at 32 Perry Rd., and contacted fire fighters.
  • Fire fighters clear debris at a barn on Perry Road in Bedford Thursday. Fourteen horses died in the blaze, which required the assistance of several local fire departments. Staff photo by Erin Place.
Friday, September 7, 2012

14 horses die in Thursday morning blaze at Bedford barn

BEDFORD – An early morning fire at a Bedford horse barn Thursday left 14 animals dead and required the assistance of several local fire departments to put out the blaze.

Bedford Fire Chief Scott Wiggin said his department received a call at 8:23 a.m. from a jogger who saw smoke coming from a barn at Perry Hill Farm, located at 32 Perry Road. By the time fire fighters arrived five or six minutes later, the 10,000-square foot horse barn was engulfed with animals still trapped inside, Wiggin said.

The owners of the farm, Harriet and Elissa Finks, a mother and daughter team, were able to lead eight of their horses, two goats and a pig to safety. Wiggin said the surviving animals were checked out by a veterinarian and there didn’t appear to be any signs of stress.

All that remained of the barn were large pieces of the metal roof, chunks of debris and one charred frame of a wall that was still standing. Throughout Thursday afternoon, crews continued to pour water on the barn and smoke smoldered from the charred remains. The house and the rest of the property were untouched by the fire.

Amy Vikstrom, of Bedford, whose two daughters ages 9 and 12 ride at the barn, walked up the winding, temporarily closed-off road to the top of the hill to see the farm after she heard the news.

She said the fire was a devastating loss not only for the Finks, but the entire community.

“It looked like a plane crashed,” Vikstrom said, noting that she cried when she saw what remained on the barn.

Vikstrom said there is a group of about a dozen girls in the community who ride at Perry Hill Farm.

“They don’t just take riding lessons. They meet up, they clean the barn and they look at the horses as people, each of their personalities. They come home with stories of the personalities of the horses,” she said. “Harriet and her daughter Elissa have been very generous in letting the girls to come on-site and take care of the horses. Some people say it benefits them, but really it benefits the girls.”

As of early Thursday afternoon, Vikstrom’s daughters and the rest of their rider group didn’t know about the horses’ deaths, as they were still in school. She contemplated how to break the news to her girls.

“It’s a teaching facility for both the real lessons and the life lessons. And unfortunately, this is probably the worst life lesson,” Vikstrom said, her voice shaking a little bit. “They’re going to be devastated; they love these animals, love them.”

The mother hopes that the young horse-riding community will be able to pull together for each other and for the Finks. Vikstrom said her daughters loved going to the farm.

“I can’t get them to pick up their own laundry, but they’ll clean up horse manure for the whole day,” she said.

Also responding to the scene were Amherst, Goffstown, Hookset, Londonderry, Milford, Merrimack and New Boston fire departments. Bow Fire Department manned the Bedford station while that department ran point on the firefighting and cleanup efforts.

Also on hand were members of the Bedford Community Emergency Response Team, an all-volunteer group that assists with emergencies after first responders have arrived.

The trio stood at the mouth of Perry Road where a roadblock was set up and directed traffic, telling motorists that they had to go around. Member Stan Popielarz said that many people had stopped by and offered their barns as a place for the remaining horses to stay while the Finks try to get back on their feet.

The American Red Cross and Salvation Army also were at the scene earlier, Popielarz said.

Wiggin expected his crew to remain at the barn all day, working to knock down hot spots.

“It’s sorting through the material, seeing where the fire could still be burning and it has to be moved because of the metal roofing and metal siding,” the chief explained.

The fire marshal was also on the scene investigating the origin of the fire, though Wiggin doesn’t believe it to be suspicious.

Erin Place can be reached at 594-6589 or eplace@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Place on Twitter (@Telegraph_ ErinP).