Members of the Herrera family, who own a stable on Atkins Street, said they got word of a massive fire and train derailment just moments after it happened about 1 a.m. on Wednesday.
The area around the derailment was evacuated soon after the Union Pacific train cars left the track and burst into flames west of the intersection of Riverside and East Berry in southeast Fort Worth. At 11:20 a.m., trucks carrying horse trailers were still ferrying animals from the burned-out stable area.
Adrian Castillo, the owner’s grandson, said he heard a loud boom, and when he reached the stables, everything was on fire. Castillo said he lives nearby and helps his grandfather with the stable’s upkeep.
Train cars carrying ethanol were burning on the sides and the rear of the stables where they kept 10 horses.
“We keep it unlocked, so we just opened the doors and let them out,” Castillo said. “We didn’t even think about the danger. We just wanted to get the horses out.”
Family members could not save three of the horses, Castillo said. What is left of the stable is burned wood and blackened sheets of tin spread along the ground. The wreckage from train cars is piled up like discarded bricks at the edge of the property, which backs up to a creek.
Firefighters were not immediately able to approach the stable because they were working to try to keep what was left of the train from exploding, said Marisol Herrera, daughter of the stable’s owner, Reyes Herrera.
Building the stable has been a labor of love and a place for his family to gather since he started constructing the stable more than 20 years ago, Reyes Herrera said through his daughter.
At 10 a.m. Wednesday, the ground was still smoking and what was left of the young trees on the stable property were hot to the touch.
The carcasses of at least two of the horses that died could be seen on the ground as people walked up to the stable’s tin structure. Almost nothing was left standing. Train cars piled up on the property and the fire destroyed or knocked down almost everything.
Everything that could burn was black or ashes.
“It’s devastating,” Marisol Herrera said. “We’re still just trying to take it all in. My father built all this with his bare hands. And it’s heartbreaking to see it all gone within a matter of minutes.”
This is the place where the Herrera family and friends gathered on the weekends, Marisol said. The horses that were saved, that were lost, they were not seen as animals, they were family members., Marisol said. There is a foal, an infant horse, who suffered burns to her eyes and face, Marisol said through tear-filled eyes.
It is too soon to know whether the family will rebuild, rebuild in the same spot, or rebuild somewhere else, Marisol said. It’s just all too soon, she said.
“This is where we had all my daughter’s birthdays since she was three,” Marisol said. “She’s nine now. She just had her confirmation and communion. She was supposed to have her confirmation party here this weekend. I guess that will have to be canceled.”