Firefighters from the Ottawa Fire Services respond to a barn fire at the Rideau Carleton Casino. Photo Courtesy of OFS

OTTAWA – With just weeks to go before kicking off a new 2023 season of horse racing, Rideau Carleton Casino lost one of its main barns in an early morning fire.

There were no horses in the barn at the time, but several pieces of equipment were lost in the blaze. The barn could not be saved.

General manager, Rideau Carleton Casino, Helen MacMillan was relieved, that all that was lost to her operation was a building.

MacMillan has been looking after the Casino and surrounding raceway operations since 2019. Her first reaction was relief that no one and no animals were injured in the fire. Building a new barn to replace the destroyed one is at the top of her to do list, as the racing season draws near.

“We will have to see what we can do in the interim,” she said. There will be some time before planners and engineers can begin to build a new barn. Our racing season begins on March 19, so we are working diligently to make sure that that still happens. In the meantime, we will be looking at a rebuild. We are extremely optimistic.”

The destroyed barn was one of several on the site. There are at least 20 horses in residence at the raceway in adjacent barns.

MacMillan said, the quick response from Ottawa Fire Services (OFS), was amazing.

It was totally outstanding,” said MacMillan.

She said the OFS did a great job of keeping onlookers who came to see what was going on at the casino safe and out of harms way.

Wednesday morning, Feb. 15 at 19:30 Ottawa Fire Services, received a fire call about a fire in one of the barns at the Rideau Carleton Raceway.

Firefighters arrived at the popular raceway from the Osgoode Ward 20 fire station 32. Smoke and sparks were coming from the barn called the paddock, which is used as the holding or staging area for all of the horses and their riders just before each race. Normally during the racing season, the barn is filled with the high energy of horses and riders poised to take to the track.

The area on the rack does not have fire hydrants so firefighters dispatched several apparatus including water tankers. The size of the fire and the extent it had progressed caused firefighters to issue a second alarm calling for more firefighters to the scene.

Firefighters brought the blaze under control but not before the equipment inside was destroyed.

An Ottawa Fire Investigator has been dispatched to the scene to determine the cause.

When dealing with areas of their district especially in rural areas of the city, firefighters have to rely on a water shuttle protocol that sees large portable water tanks set up at the scene of a fire and tanker trucks constantly shuttle water to these holding tanks so they can be used at the fire.

Back in 2015, the Ottawa Fire Services realized many parts of the city would not have an adequate service of water supply for them to use.

The service underwent the Commercial “Superior Tanker Shuttle” testing as part of the Fire Underwriters Survey.

The results of the test were impressive and helped residents obtain appropriate fire insurance coverage.

The purpose of the testing is to measure the fire services’ ability to deliver an uninterrupted water supply of over 400GPM (gallons per minute) at the five (5) minute mark of arriving on scene in areas without hydrants which are usually rural. This ability is a key factor used in the development of Commercial and Personal property insurance rates.

OFS exceeded test requirements, maintaining water flows of over 500GPM for an indefinite period and demonstrated they can meet the emergency needs of the rural communities within the City of Ottawa.