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Indigo Acres Fire Update

Editor's note: As most readers are aware from previous news reports, Indigo Acres in Minnesota suffered a devastating barn fire on July 30 in which seven horses died. Fortunately, the other 45+ horses in the barn were saved due to heroic actions of farm staff, friends, and neighbors. Romy Ackerberg, co-owner of Indigo Acres with her husband Stuart, has written the following letters to friends and family describing the recent event. There is no better way to portray her amazing spirit than to let these powerful letters speak for themselves. These letters are reprinted with Ackerberg's permission.


August 4, 2007

Dear ___:


I have only had a couple of free minutes to write to, or call people to give updates... Here are a couple of letters that I put together to describe the event and the day or two after... We are moving forward at a fairly good pace, insurance investigation begins within a couple of days, our company does a good job, and all have been on top of things.  Jordyn's new horse is going to a training facility and beginning a 30 day tune up before she arrives, and Morgan will be riding an exciting Jr. Park horse of one of our very good friends in a few shows to keep her feet wet and to stay in the ring for the remainder of the season... People are showering us with help and supplies and goodwill. My staff and I are all making rounds to care for the 45+ horses in the 7 neighboring farms... And to return as much goodwill as has come our way!  EVERYONE wanted to take care of TRUST FUND. I was the one that made the call to put him back to work... why waste any time... we are still breeding our mares and our clients'...  I will be more than happy to give current updates, and you are more than welcome to give my e-mail/phone number to anyone who wishes to contact us!  We have been completely overwhelmed with the 100's of thoughtful, caring people that we are blessed to have in our lives! 

Best Wishes, Rom & Family 



We are all doing O.K. considering... 7 horses died, two of which were Morgan and Jordyn's "best friends" and companions... I personally can handle anything... It is so hard to watch the girls suffer... Reina is amazing, trying to put the pieces together... She has already given both her sisters, "one of her horses", but still wishes to wake up and have it all be a bad dream.  


My staff are HEROS.  Of the 60 horses that were inside, most of which were mares and babies, only 7 didn't make it out alive (one is still missing in all the rubble).   The barn was impenetrable just 5 short minutes after the fire was discovered as a small flicker of flame at the top of a freshly stacked load of hay.  Thank GOD, my vet forgot something in her car, and walked through the back storage area to retrieve it.  She only noticed a flash of light out of the corner of her eye. By the time that she screamed fire... the entire 300 bales of hay were ignited like a roman candle... directly behind Trust Fund's stall.  He, (Trust Fund) was the first to be rescued, roughly a minute after the fire started.  He was rearing and striking with his front feet, and injured the vet that was trying to get him out...  He knew the fire was there before it was even discovered.  He settled down for a moment long enough to get a halter on, after a strong rap on the chest with a chain, and allowed Kim (our vet), to remove him from the stall that was seconds away from collapsing.   My staff ran throughout the barn, opening ALL of the 40 stall doors and forcing horses out into the smoke filled alleyways.   When the fire started, the girls and I were next door unloading groceries. My phone rang... Abby (my barn manager) was screaming that the barn was on fire... I immediately screamed to the girls run to the truck (instinct told them from my tone that this was very serious).  We were at the farm within 60 seconds. From the road, the smoke was already half a mile in the air.  I've been told by those there, that I was driving like someone out of the "Dukes Of Hazard".  I only remember lifting off the ground about 10 feet, after racing over a drainage field and crashing down on the driveway in front of the lounge (the quickest route)!   I ran for the lounge door, opened it and the flames and smoke threw me back and curled up over the porch overhang.          


Morgan and I had strong instincts to run down the main alleyways to start opening doors... only to realize that the space had transformed into a scene from "H-ll."  The smoke was so thick that just a single breath left you gasping and on your knees... it was hard to distinguish between up and down, and it was impossible to fight your instinct to seek daylight and air... within 15 seconds (in which I attempted to open to stall doors in the darkness, only to realize that they were already open and empty), we were forced to retreat and left to watch in horror, not knowing who was in and who was out.   I kept trying to think of ways to cover my head so that I could breath, and that I could get in back in long enough to rescue more of my beloved horses...  Knowing full well that I had the courage and could find a way... and then hearing the terrified voices of my girls screaming... "Mom, please don't. what about Peyton" (our unborn son)... which of course was a good reminder of priorities... 50+ horses running free. some in the neighboring fields, and most along our pastures. seeking safety in numbers and familiar whinnies.   The sight of my crew running back in and coming out vomiting, crawling on their hands and knees as horses ran in a panic over the top of them... then going back in for yet another attempt.  They saved all that they possibly could... they believe that some of the horses that perished actually ran out and then ran back in, in an attempt to seek safety in all that they knew... their stalls.  The only knowledge that makes this any easier is that I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt (from taking just one breath of that black smoke), that the horses that were trapped were unconscious within seconds.   We now have 50+ horses that are at neighboring farms... 7 hospitalized, 6 died and one has still not been found in the rubble.  All of my people are fine, although terribly sad.  The piles of twisted metal are still smoldering.  I am doing what I always do... envisioning a newer, brighter outcome, through the French doors that I will now open.   My deepest regret is for my girls... although they are amazing and forgiving... It is still so hard to rationalize innocent creatures in pain and fear.   We have had an incredible outpouring of support from friends, associates, neighbors, and complete strangers.   Life is amazingly fragile... this is a very good reminder to live it to the fullest, "fairest", and with tremendous joy and passion for the things that we love.  It can all be gone in a matter of seconds... however... the dreams never die.         

Love, Rom


Dear ___:

... I did go to the hospital, just for some IV fluids, contractions had started, but once I settled down they stopped.  I was treated for smoke inhalation and dehydration, as were all of our HERO workers.  Stuart was, and always is, in total control and the man of every hour.  Our goal from here on out is to get through the "icky", insurance portion of the nightmare, and re-build as quickly as possible, of course there will be significant safety changes made, and how ironic it played out, that we were so totally anal about cleanliness and safety in our facility.   One of the more significant pieces that we are so thankful for, has been the immediate outpouring of help from neighbors, friends, strangers... even horse people from other countries, that heard of the loss.  I have very little experience with fire, but I am still reeling from the speed at which this consumed our barn.  Within 5 minutes the entire "stable", portion of the barn was impenetrable, within 10 minutes we no longer could go into the "arena", portion of the barn, within 15 minutes the barn was collapsing and there were over 300 hundred people on the grounds and miles of trailers waiting in line to take 1-2 or as many horses as they could and catch the remaining "runners".   We currently have 45 displaced horses, some of which are still in the hospital... Trust Fund of course, is "back in action", residing at the clinic and working hard (no pun intended) to produce frozen semen!   We will be consolidating within the week to a local vacant facility, built in 2004, beautiful and fully outfitted, with indoor riding arena, turnouts, pasture and living quarters for our help.  It will be business as usual soon, and an intense 4+ month clean up ahead.  We are grateful that our losses weren't more severe, and thankful for all of our friends!



The horses lost in the fire include:

1 - The Special Effect - 5 year-old gelding - three-gaited show pleasure

2 - Absolutely Special - 9 year-old gelding - three-gaited park

3 - Ro & Me's Here Comes the Rain - 5 year-old mare - equitation

4 & 5 - York's Magic Lady (Rain's dam) & 2007 Foal - broodmare and foal

6 - Ro & Me's Easy Money - 2 year-old stallion - prospect

7 - Ro & Me's Integrity - 3 year-old gelding - prospect   


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