Horse barn fire devastates Atoka Co. family business

By: Stephanie Brletic Email
By: Stephanie Brletic Email

CANEY, Okla. -- An Atoka County family is left picking up the pieces of their business after fire completely destroyed their barn, killing their race horses.

The fire broke out this weekend in Caney, Oklahoma. Now the family is struggling to deal with their loss and wondering what to do next.

For thirty years, Eddie Willis and his family have successfully trained racing horses, a job they say they loved. But this weekend's tragic event leaves them wondering whether or not they want to rebuild.

This Saturday started normally but by the evening, everything the Willis Family has worked so hard to build was gone.

“It’s the worst nightmare, then you never know what happened, it just caught a fire. I’ve heard of them before, but I’ve never seen one... And I hope I never see another one," Eddie Willis says.

The fire on Buckholt Road in Caney took just minutes to rip through and demolish the Willis Racing Stables.

"I wasn't home. My wife noticed it first, and within ten minutes, or five minutes, she had everybody on their way, but it was too late," Mr. Willis says.

Willis says the fire marshal told him the fire started in an office area of the barn but officials are not sure what caused the fire. Family members say the event was devastating and this is the worst blow they have ever been dealt.

Eddie Willis says this is not the first time the barn has been damaged. In 1990, a tornado hit the barn but they did not lose any horses.

This time they were not so lucky.

Forty-three horses were killed in the fire. Four others made it out, but Willis says he's not sure if they are going to survive.

"A lot of people may not feel about horses like I do, but it's part of the family."

The Willis’s buried all of the horses on their property, and they say the decision whether to rebuild will be made by the entire family.

The Willis’s say the one bright spot in this tragedy is that many members of the community have volunteered their time and resources to help with the clean up.

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