Bigfork horse barn destroyed in blaze

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Firefighters put out the remains of a barn fire on Montana 83 near Echo Lake on Tuesday. (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

A horse barn off Montana 83 near Swan River School burned to the ground Tuesday afternoon, destroying tools and tack but resulting in no injuries to horses or humans.

Fire crews arrived to find the structure completely engulfed in flames at around 2:30 p.m. and were unable to salvage the barn.

One of the property owners, Georgia Hensler, 77, said she was home when a stranger drove up her driveway honking her horn to notify her that her barn was burning about 500 feet from her house.

Hensler said she attempted to call 911 but was unable to get through and then called her daughter, Judy Wagoner, 52.

Wagoner, a student at Flathead Valley Community College, was on campus when her mother called and rushed home when she heard the news.

Multiple agencies were already on scene when she arrived, and the six horses she and her mother kept on her property were running across the property, scared but unharmed.

The blaze was still smoldering at 4 p.m., about two hours after the first crews arrived on scene. The cause of the fire has not yet been determined.

Wagoner said the fire destroyed not only the barn, but about $4,000 in horse tack and equipment, tools, feed and other items stored inside. It is estimated to cost about $30,000 to rebuild the barn.

People interested in assisting Hensler can email mtsatori@yahoo.com.

Reporter Mary Cloud Taylor can be reached at 758-4459 or mtaylor@dailyinterlake.com.

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