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Fast action by staff at a charity that cares for ex-racehorses averted disaster when a fire broke out yesterday morning.

At 10.30am yesterday morning (5 November) staff at the Greatwood charity in Wiltshire spotted smoke. It was pouring out of the roof of a barn that houses 20-year-old stallion No Big Deal and his Shetland pony companion.

“It was absolutely horrific,” said Helen Yeadon, a founder and trustee of the charity, which also works with children who have special educational needs. “The stallion and pony were in a small gap by the gate with flames engulfing the straw behind them. They were terrified.”

Mrs Yeadon believes the fire was started by a faulty lightbulb, which exploded with sparks setting fire to the bedding.

“I had put the light on for breakfast stables and, as it was such a dull day, I left it on. We were in a different part of the yard when we saw smoke coming up through the roof.

“It was just lucky it wasn’t evening stables, because we wouldn’t have seen the smoke — another five minutes and it would have been quite awful.”

Marlborough Fire Brigade was on the scene quickly, but staff had already brought the blaze under control using an old fire hose.

No Big Deal was seen by Greatwood’s regular vet, who sedated him as a precaution following the ordeal. Neither horse has a serious injury.

“We have 54 horses here, it could have been dreadful,” said Mrs Yeadon. “What is so terrifying is how quickly it goes up.”

Although structural damage was minimal, Greatwood is now looking at upgrading its smoke alarms and putting additional fire-fighting apparatus in place.

Contact the charity at: www.racehorsesgreatwood.org