The sight is devastating. Charred posts and jagged pieces of tin are jutting into the air from the blackened remains of what was a 40-stall horse barn on the peaceful rolling hills of the Fair Hill Training Center.

Just to the left of one of those contorted tin pieces lay the remains of a horse, one of 24 charred masses still in their stalls after a raging fire that destroyed the barn owned by Bruce Jackson and his partner, Buddy Jones, on Training Center Drive the evening of Nov. 1. Only four of the 28 horses stabled there survived.

Jackson, who lives in Oxford, Pa., five minutes from the barn, arrived shortly after 7 p.m. the evening of the fire. Though still in a daze the following day, he seemed to have his emotions in check. Jones and his daughter Kelly, however, saw the scene for the first time about 1 p.m. the day after the fire. They had driven 16 hours from Dade City, Fla., and though they talked nonstop about what they might see over those hours, “nothing we imagined was as horrible as this,” Buddy Jones said.

Kelly Jones, 26, had worked at the barn last year, and as she climbed from their vehicle, she began to cry

“I knew these horses,” she said later, barely able to voice the words before her emotions again overwhelmed her.

The last time the Maryland horse community experienced such a disaster was Feb. 22, 2004, when 25 show horses died in a fire at Summerwind Farm, a Montgomery County training facility for competition Quarter Horses. On Nov. 2, firemen were still hosing down the Fair Hill barn, as the winds stirred the ashes and the state fire officials inspected the scene.

Deputy State Fire Marshal W. Faron Taylor said officials had yet to determine where the fire began, the first step in identifying the cause. He said arson could neither be confirmed nor ruled out. He also said the horses apparently died of smoke inhalation, and he estimated tot