Police: Cause of horse barn fire was arson
NORTHWEST MIAMI-DADE, Fla. (WSVN) -- The cause of a fire that reduced a South Florida horse ranch to ashes and claimed the lives of one man and several animals trapped inside was arson, investigators said.
Property owners at Rubio Ranch were cleaning up the debris left behind by the blaze Monday, one day after the property, located off of Northwest 155th Street and 122nd Avenue, burst into flames, just before 1 a.m. Sunday. "When we come over here, the fire was so hot inside," said horse owner Nelson Cardoza, who was at the ranch when the blaze started.
Smoke could be seen pouring into the sky as Cardoza and several neighbors attempted to rescue any lives he could, but he said the heat from the flames was overpowering. "We run back there with all the horses; a few horses run that way," he said.
Neighbors described the scene as complete chaos. According to fire investigators, 47-year-old Sergio Fernandez, who lived and worked in the stables, was killed, along with three horses and a dog.
"The property owner met us at the entrance of the property and advised us that there may be somebody inside," said Fabal Cesar, Chief Fire Officer at Miami-Dade Fire Rescue. "[The victim] did not answer his phone."
There are no fire hydrants in the area, so firefighters had to retrieve water from the Okeechobee Road Canal to put out the blaze. Ashen debris covered the ground where horses used to stand.
One of the three horses Cardoza has boarded at the ranch was injured during the fire. He admitted, however, that the damage could have been far more extensive. "Well, I'm happy," he said. "I've been waiting for around 10 hours to see how [my horse] is because she was here, and it wasn't OK."
Police continue investigating as they attempt to find the people responsible for the fire.
According to witnesses, several people were fighting on the property when the blaze broke out.
All of the other animals who live in the ranch are expected to be OK.
If you have any information on this arson case, call Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at 305-471-TIPS. Remember, you can always remain anonymous, and you may be eligible for a reward.
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