Illinois Teen’s Heroism in Barn Fire Saves 25 Horses

Long time Arabian horse trainer and judge, Richard Wright, was the victim of every horseman’s nightmare on Wednesday when a fire broke out in his 64 stall, 25,000 square-foot barn near McHenry, IL. The five-alarm fire ripped through Black Tie Stable shortly after 5 p.m. With no hydrants in the vicinity, at least 21 fire departments were needed to help out, along with tankers, according to McHenry’s Northwest Herald.


Before the tankers arrived, however, 15 year-old Madison Wallraff pulled up to the property with her step-father and saw flames. After dialing 911, Wallraff ran into the barn and began pulling horses from their stalls. Returning to the blazing barn repeatedly, Wallraff, later joined by Shannon Weitzman, 21, pulled at least 25 horses to safety–a response that has horse owners everywhere calling Wallraff a hero.


“Madison Wallraf is one brave young lady and some 25 horses, many of them Arabian’s, are alive today because of her incredible bravery in the face of life threatening circumstances. I think I can safely speak for AHA’s some 30,000 members in celebrating Madison’s truly heroic efforts,” says Lance Walters, Arabian Horse Association (AHA), president. “This act of selfless courage by Madison and fellow rescuer, Shannon Weitzman, with no concern for their personal safety, exemplifies the bond between the horse and the people who love them,” added Walters.


Seeing animals and members of their own community in need, many near McHenry jumped into action to support Wright and his clients by offering care for the surviving horses. Those not as close or without the means to help directly turned to the Internet to express their sympathy with donations to the Arabian Horsemen’s Distress Fund (AHDF) at “It’s amazing the scope and breadth of the people who want to help in these situations. Everybody cares, and they care in the same way,” says Mary Trowbridge, an AHDF Board Member. “We didn’t even really reach out, but the outpouring of support actually crashed our server for a short time,” says Trowbridge. AHDF is accepting donations that can be earmarked directly toward the Richard Wright fire.


According to the Northwest Herald, a total of 18 horses were lost in the fire and the cause of the fire is unknown and is not thought to be suspicious.

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