LAKE WORTH (CBSMiami) -
Sam Stathis watched his barn at the South Florida Trotting Center in suburban Lake Worth go up in flames overnight, realizing his worst nightmare.
Twelve horses trapped in their stables died in the fire, including one of his own.
"My heart is broken. I'm doing all I can to hold it together," he said.
It was just before midnight when he said a back storage area filled with hay caught fire and spread quickly.
Flames could be seen shooting 30 feet into the air.
Several who live at the center rushed in through the smoke and flames to the stables and managed to save 11 horses.
"They didn't want to come out. The gates were on fire. It was terrible," said Dale Gilmour who helped rescue the horses.
The surviving eleven horses are being treated at the Reid Equine Center in Loxahatchee.
Surgeon Ali Daniel said the next 48 hours are critical.
"The immediate effect of the fire are the burns but secondary are the smoke inhalation," he said. "We have been working night and day, and we will work for days to treat them."
The center's property manager, Ann Mari Daley, said the loss of the twelve horses is personal.
"These weren't just horses, these were our four-legged kids"
The trotting Center is one of the few that caters to the harness racing industry.
Many of the horses caught in the fire were getting ready to be moved for competition.
"It's not about the money. It's about the love," said Daley.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.
for more features.