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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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by Stewart Location: Alva, Ok on Jan 23, 2008 at 05:40 AM
    This is a great tragedy I am so sorry this has happened, We also love our horses and they are our family. I can't imagine what you are going through but sending prayers of strength your way. Please let us know if you need anything horse lovers across the nation will put the word out and get help for you. Tears are still rolling down my face for you’re loss. On another not if you can say something supporting don’t say it at all, the following quote was very cold hearted! Shame on you for this you had the guts to be hateful but to chicken to post your name. “ Directed to Posted by: Anonymous OMG all of this over horses,”
  • by OKIE Location: SOUTHERN OKLA on Jan 22, 2008 at 07:31 PM
    TO ANONYMOUS IF YOU HAD LOST YOUR WAY OF MAKING A LIVING WOULDN'T IT UPSET YOU. OR DO YOU DRAW PUBLIC ASSISTANCE? FROM THE WAY IT SOUNDS THESE ARE JUST HARD WORKING COUNTY PEOPLE. YOU SHOULD TRY WORKING WITH FARM ANIMALS TRYING TO KEEP THEM ALIVE. THEY REQUIRE ALOT OF WORK AND LOVE. SO INSTEAD OF WHINNINGS ABOUT ALL THIS OVER HORSES. THE ANSWER IS YES. IF IT WASN'T FOR PEOPLE IN THE COUNTY TRYING TO MAKE AN HONEST LIVING THE WORLD WOULD BE A BETTER PLACE. I HOPE THESE PEOPLE CAN GET THEIR LIVES BACK ON TRACK. GOD BLESS YOU
  • by Leslie Padilla Location: Moore Oklahoma on Jan 22, 2008 at 03:59 PM
    I am so sorry. From another race horse trainers point of view you are living a nightmare. I can't even begin to imagine. Just try and look ahead, you will get throuh it. You are really blessed to have such a tight family love for the game, and you can't destroy that. You will all stick together and get through this. We will do anything to help you and you know know where we are.
  • by Anonymous on Jan 22, 2008 at 03:12 PM
    OMG all of this over horses,
  • by RobW Location: Austin, TX on Jan 22, 2008 at 01:36 PM
    Is there a fund set up to help?
  • by KIM Location: LONEGROVE on Jan 22, 2008 at 07:51 AM
    I GREW UP ON A HORSE RANCH, WE HAVE ROPING HORSES AND BARREL HORSES, THEY ARE A PART OF YOUR FAMILY.I UNDERSTAND PART OF THE HURT YOU ARE FEELING, I HAVE LOST A FEW HORSES OVER THE YEARS. I HOPE YALL DECIDE TO REBUILD, BECAUSE NO MATTER HOW HARD YOU TRY TO GET OUT OF THE BUSINESS YOU CAN'T, IT WILL ALWAYS BE IN YOUR BLOOD !!!
  • by Ron Tyler Location: Colbert on Jan 22, 2008 at 06:40 AM
    Our prayers go out to the Willis Family, we have know Eddie a long time, he is a true horseman, and a good human being, as is all of his family. Eddie & family, you have a GOD and many friends that love you, With GODS guidance soon the Program will read Trained by: Eddie Willis. GOD BLESS YOU.
  • by Annie Location: Hendrix, ok. on Jan 21, 2008 at 06:04 PM
    My family, and i are so sorry for the tragic loss of your beloved horses.We are a horse family, and yes we feel the same way as you do about them. Our prayers go out to you and your family. God bless you, Annie and family.
  • by Chick Location: Hendrix,OK on Jan 21, 2008 at 05:35 PM
    My thoughts and prayers goes out the willis family, I can only imagine how they feel right now.. people don't realize how much Volunteer Firefighters mean untell it's there place thats on fire and everybody comes out to help
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