Employee's quick actions credited with saving horses from flames

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Flames ripped through the stables of one of the largest horse ranches in Oakland County. More than one hundred horses call it home - and were fortunate to make it out alive because of a quick-thinking and brave employee.

The ponies were lucky and so were the people. About 50 horses at Hoffman Farms in Highland Township were inside the stables around 9 am Thursday when fire broke out.

Richard Cole is the acting Chief of the Highland Fire Department. He said that employees were doing some work last night involving staining and when they left for the day, they left a pile of rags.

"They were doing some staining last night. they piled up some rags on the floor, come in this morning to start again and they could smell smoke,"

The chief said you can't leave those rags on the floor because they will spontaneously combust. It took six departments and the stable's own water to put out the fire. This is the fourth accidental fire in about 15 years.

Ellesse Schwartz is crediting with saving the horses from the flames.

"We started getting the ponies out as soon as we got here," Schwartz  said. "We just started opening doors and letting them go."

She helped lead all of the 50 horses that were inside out to join the other 50 horses in the 300 acres - well away from the fire.

"Good news: like an hour later the fire was pretty contained. Everyone's okay. All the horses are okay and all the bunnies and chickens and everything else and the people," Schwartz said.

Robert Hoffman owns the ranch. The Oakland County Commissioner is was trying to build a wine-tasting deck on his horse barn. That's what was being stained the night before.

The fire chief said it could take 6 to 8 months to get it rebuilt.  But thanks to the heroics of the Highland fire department and others, this could've been a lot worse.