Mercer fairgrounds barn burns down day after fair concludes

On Monday morning, colorful flags still marked off parking lots and workers had begun picking up trash following the The Mercer County Fair and Horse Show, which ended Saturday night. But an unexpected and potentially devastating mess will still have to be dealt with before next year’s fair opens.

Sunday night, sometime between 11 and 11:30 p.m., a groundskeeper at the fairgrounds reported to the Harrodsburg Fire Department that the 48-stall horse barn No. 10 was going up in flames. 

While inspecting the the complete loss of the structure Tuesday morning, fair board member Jeff Young said, “We’ve put a whole lot of work here. It’s sad to see it has gone up in smoke.”

Terrill Simpson, another board member at the scene, said within the past 11 years, the fair has had to recover from three other fires and a tornado. He said if there was anything good about the fire, it’s that it happened Sunday night. Simpson said if the fire had started Saturday night, the destruction could have been a lot worse because trucks, semi-trucks, trailers and other vehicles were still parked alongside the “big, old and dry barn.”

Simpson said the Harrodsburg Fire Department “did an outstanding job controlling the fire. It speaks for them.”

Young said the board will have a meeting and see where they stand concerning replacing the structure.

“We need the stalls,” he said.

Simpson added that for “off-season” horse shows, the remaining facilities at the fairgrounds will be adequate. However, because horse shows are “coming back to life” and more people are competing, “we definitely will have to have another barn.”

Harrodsburg Fire Chief Ric Maxfield said Tuesday morning the fire was “really rolling” when they arrived. He said the 15 firefighters working Sunday night did all they could to save another nearby barn that had already started steaming, signaling another possible fire breakout. He said flames were shooting up 50 to 60 feet into the air and scorched the tops of nearby trees.

“Fortunately they lost only one barn and not two,” Maxfield said.

The chief said he has spoken with the fire marshal but a cause has not been determined. Common causes are electrical, heat and arson. Arson is not suspected at this time; no one was seen coming in or out of the barn, he said.

No horses or people were reported injured in the fire.