Owner of Equine Rescue of Aiken in need of support after barn fire


AIKEN, S.C. (WJBF) – The Equine Rescue of Aiken is known for helping animals in the community. Now the owner of the center needs some help of his own.

That’s after a fire broke out Saturday night, destroying one of their offices and severely injuring one of their horses.

NewsChannel 6 spoke with the owner, Jim Rhodes, less than 24 hours after that fire was contained, and he says, he’s still trying to piece together what happened.

 “No loss of life, material things can be replaced,” said Jim Rhodes, the President and owner of Equine Rescue of Aiken.

It’s a testament of faith, on a day celebrated for miracles.

“This is a Christian week and the whole week has been a challenge for me,” said Rhodes.

After battling cancer and a legal fight, one of Rhodes’ barns caught fire at the Aiken Equine Rescue. A horse was inside at the time but did make it out safe, thanks to Rhodes’ wife Debra, who was at the home when it happened.

“I had gone in to get cleaned up after working outside, and as soon as I went inside, I heard a loud explosion and looked out the window, and at least half of the barn was already fully engulfed,” said Debra Rhodes, “Literally his little mane and the top of his back was actually on fire when I got him out, but he’s got some blisters going on, but he’s at the clinic and doing fine,” she added.

There was word that the horse died from the fire.

“I’m not sure where that came from, the horse was burnt the hair was singed when Debbie got him out of the stall, but he had thermal burns, or heat burns not fire burns,” said Rhodes.

The Aiken Equine Rescue is made up of 90 acres of land. One barn was completely burned, but what was lost, we’ll take a lot of help from the community to replace it.

“We need everything, it’s humbling for me to ask; the biggest need is financial support to cover the stuff that’s not covered, we lost probably 100 to 150 thousand dollars worth of medical supplies, and that’s very hard to replace,” said Rhodes.

Where you would find most of the resources for the horses is now made up of rubble and ash.

“We lost all our tact all our refrigerated, washer and dryers, I mean everything, it’s amazing if you just walk through, you’d see,” said Rhodes.

And that’s what we did. NewsChannel 6 got an in-depth look at the blaze’s damages left behind. 

Two of Rhodes’ neighbors were also there when the barn caught fire, something they’d never expect to see.

“My first reaction was oh my God, we were working in the front yard of our house with some flowers and stuff, then we went around the side of the house, and then all I heard was screams and her running and looked over here and saw just flames shooting up through the rough already,” said Ken and Linda Wandless, neighbors of the Rhodes.

They stepped in to help with putting the fire out.

“There’s a gate that they put in for us because we bring our grandkids over here when they come to visit, and they like to feed the horses, so I grabbed the key, opened up the gate, and by that time Debbie, she was running, so we got here about the same time, got to the back of the barn and she was the hero getting the pony out,” said the Wandless.

But even through this tragedy, there was still a miracle.

“Right there in that draw, there was 4 thousand dollars and some other important documents when we went to check that draw after the fire, and nothing had been touched,” said Rhodes.

There is still no word on what started that fire, but Rhodes tells NewsChannel 6 that there is an ongoing investigation. The Equine Center is still in need of resources.

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