LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Four horse barns at the Kentucky Fair & Exposition Center were destroyed when fire broke out around 2 a.m. Tuesday.
KEC President Harold Workman says firefighters had the blaze under control by the time he arrived. "I received a call about 2:30," Workman said. "I got here a little after 3. By then they pretty well had it put out. It was smoldering like it is now."
Workman ways it's too early to tell the extent of the damage. "It's a little premature to know that. We lost four barns - three in the front, one in the back. We'll get an estimate soon, but we don't have any idea at this point."
The fire came just two days after the end of the Kentucky State Fair and three days after the World Championship Horse Show - when there were nearly 2,000 horses in and out of the area. Fortunately, there were no horses or people inside when Tuesday's fire broke out.
Workman said if the fire had happened a couple days earlier, it could have been much worse.
"All these barns were full," Workman said. "They were full of saddle-bred horses for showing Saturday evening. And the horses moved out, all of them, on Sunday, primarily. Of course the bedding was still in the barns, so we're beginning to clean up on that."
Workman said the barns can house about 1,000 horses, with about 50 horses to each barn.
The first firefighters to arrive on the scene faced intense flames because the bedding hay, straw and sawdust acted as an accelerant. Even so, firefighters were able to contain the blaze to a small area.
"We deployed our resources in key places," said Louisville Fire & Rescue Sgt. Sal Melendez. "And we were able to put a lot of water and a lot of people on it right away. And I can't say it enough: Our people did an excellent job."
Workman also confirmed that there was a small fire at one of the horse barns a day earlier, on Aug. 31, but said he doesn't know how it started.
Firefighters were still checking for hot spots hours after the blaze. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.