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'It's heartbreaking': Fourteen horses die in Cape Breton barn fire

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BALLS CREEK, N.S. -

When fire crews arrived on scene of a major fire in the rural community of Balls Creek, N.S., it quickly became clear just how much had been lost.

North Sydney Fire Chief Lloyd MacIntosh says the call came in just before 4:30 a.m. Monday and, by the time crews arrived, most of a barn was already gone. In all, six fire departments responded.

"Everything is amplified at Christmastime,” said MacIntosh. “This is not the first tragedy that lady suffered at Christmastime as well. She lost her house in that same area on Christmas Eve, about four years ago."

In addition to the barn, 14 horses were lost in the fire.

"Barn's gone, horses are gone. It's just not a good day today," said Joe Nearing, who owned three of the horses.

Nearing says his horses were standard-bred racehorses. He drove to the scene after waking up to the bad news.

"I (had to) come and look, for peace of mind and what not,” said Nearing. “It's heartbreaking. It's hard, very hard."

The loss of the horses is a blow to the local horse-racing scene.

"Fourteen horses, that's really two dashes a week gone out of the racing game in North Sydney,” said Nearing. “So, I don't know. (Do I ) pick up the pieces and carry on? Or walk away?"

With roughly 150 bales of hay inside the barn, fire crews remained on scene for hours putting out hot spots.

MacIntosh said there's no word yet on the cause of the fire.

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