PLAINFIELD – Two horse owners were the first to spot the fire that killed 18 horses at the Del Real Stables in the early morning hours Wednesday.
About 1 a.m. Wednesday, Lori Padilla, 26, of Aurora and her boyfriend Abel Ramos, 24, of Joliet, were headed for Joliet when they saw the fire from Ridge Road. They happened to be passing by the Del Real Stables, where each of them kept a horse.
They saw the fire and stopped, rushing into the barn where the horses were kept. Authorities believe the fire started in a straw trailer next to the barn, and Padilla said the trailer already was on fire with the barn blaze just starting when they arrived.
They immediately tried to get horses out.
“We risked our lives for them,” Padilla said.
The fire spread quickly, and Padilla said they were able to save a dozen horses, including the two that belonged to her and Ramos. She called 911 and it took about 10 to 15 minutes for fire trucks to arrive, Padilla said. Firefighters tried to put out the fire with a water hose, but it spread quickly in the barn.
When firefighters arrived, they told the group to get back from the barn, which quickly was engulfed in flames. Padilla said the firefighters said it was too late to save the building.
Padilla suspects no one may have called 911 if she and Ramos had not happened to come upon the fire because the barn is in an isolated location at Ridge and Wheeler roads. No one appeared to be home at the house next door.
Padilla was one of the people taken to the hospital. She said she fainted about 3 a.m., was treated at a hospital for breathing in carbon monoxide and was released Wednesday afternoon. Some of her hair was burned off at the ends from the flames.
“I feel like I’m traumatized already,” Padilla said.
The surviving horses were retrieved by their owners and taken to other ranches, Padilla said. Her horse and Ramos’ horse are OK.
“I’ve always been an animal lover,” Padilla said. “What I experienced, it’s too much.”
The cause of the fire still is under investigation.