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☛ 24 horses perish in fire on Connecticut farm 12-29-17


Dec. 29, 2017
Reprint from Hartford Courant
By Matthew Ormseth and Christine Dempsey

Two dozen horses died in an early morning blaze at Folly Farm in Simsbury Thursday, one of the deadliest barn fires nationally in recent years and a staggering blow to the family-owned farm.

All 24 horses housed in the farm’s largest barn died of smoke inhalation, according to James Baldis, chief of Simsbury Volunteer Fire Department. On Facebook, the farm’s manager, Alison Patricelli, said the 19 horses housed in other barns on the property were unharmed.

The fire’s grim toll is among the worst in recent years, exceeded only by a 2016 Kentucky barn fire — apparently sparked by lightning — that killed 27 horses, and a 2014 fire in suburban Chicago that left 32 horses dead.

Fire officials have yet to determine what sparked the blaze, which was first reported at 6:50 a.m. and knocked down by 7 a.m. The barn’s doorways appeared blackened, though no structural damage was visible Thursday morning as investigators worked in biting temperatures to determine what started the fire.

Though officials had not yet determined what started the fire as of Thursday night, Simsbury Fire Marshal Kevin Kowalski said they believe the fire was accidental, that it started in the middle of the stall area and that it had likely been smoldering for hours.


There was minimal structural damage to the arena barn, but two dozen horses died in an early morning fire at Folly Farm in Simsbury Thursday, the farm said. (John Woike / Hartford Courant)

Patricelli wrote on Facebook that most of the horses killed were part of the farm’s riding and polo schools, though three of the dead were privately owned.

“These gentle souls taught hundreds of children and adults how to ride, to play polo, and to love through the years,” Patricelli wrote on Facebook. “They were the heart and soul of Folly Farm and of our lives.”

Folly Farm, a sprawling 175-acre property at the base of Talcott Mountain in Simsbury, boards both privately owned horses and the farm’s own stock. The farm offers polo and equestrian lessons, and its grounds include the Simsbury Polo Club. The farm also hosts weddings and other celebrations.

Doug Norrdin, Alison Patricelli’s son, roamed the grounds Thursday morning. Doug, 13, said his mother was in California but is returning immediately to Connecticut. “Some of my mom’s special horses were in there, and I think they’re all gone,” he said. “My mom texted me this morning saying she’s pretty sad.”

Doug’s grandfather, Robert E. Patricelli, bought the 100-year-old farm when it was in foreclosure in 1981. A dairy and show cow farm under its previous owners, the Patricellis brought polo to its grounds in 2016 with the creation of the Simsbury Polo Club and a year-round polo school.

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