Toronto police and fire officials say they are investigating after two barns in a north-end Toronto park caught on fire early Monday morning and left 16 horses dead.
Firefighters were called to the Sunnybrook Stables at Sunnybrook Park, which is located west of Leslie Street and north of Eglinton Avenue East, by a resident of a nearby apartment building.
When they arrived at the stables at about 3 a.m., firefighters said they found one barn fully engulfed in flames and another starting to burn.
“We still have crews on-site working with both the Office of the Fire Marshal and our Toronto Fire Services investigations team,” Chief Matthew Pegg told reporters Monday afternoon, adding the initial call came in as a report of a grass fire.
“The investigation is ongoing into the origin, cause and circumstances, so that’s going to take a substantial amount of time.”
Officials said 13 horses survived, and some were taken to the stables at Exhibition Place.
Pegg commended firefighters for stopping the spread of the fire and for the ability of police and fire crews to save the remaining horses.
Officers from the Toronto police mounted unit helped search the surrounding park for other horses.
Autumn Blanchard, who said she personally trained a couple of the horses, said it was hard to receive the news on Monday. She said some of her horses were at the stables for more than 10 years.
“We just want to go have a look and see if we can take some home and bury them on our property,” she told reporters Monday morning.
“We thought this was a really safe area. It’s so beautiful here.”
Mayor John Tory told reporters he had fond memories of coming to visit horses at the same stables.
“People love animals, and they’re animals you don’t see all the time when you live in the big city … it’s a tragedy when you lose animals like this,” Tory said Monday evening.
According to the Sunnybrook Stables website, it said the business has been operating for more than three decades.
The website said riding lessons, camps and clinics are offered to riders.
— With files from The Canadian Press and Sean O’Shea