Sprinklers in a barn at Plainridge Racecourse, a harness racetrack near Boston, saved some 35 horses when a fire broke out May 9. High winds could have sent flames to other barns when the blaze began about 3 a.m.

The racetrack, located in Plainville, about 35 miles southwest of the Boston area, had a sprinkler system installed in the barns in 1999. Plainville Fire Chief Ted Joubert credited the system with saving the horses.

"The sprinklers are the big story," Joubert told CBS affiliate WBZ. "These barns are highly combustible."

Four members of the fire department responded to the incident, while horsemen rescued 35-40 horses from the barn. Veterinarians monitored animals for smoke inhalation. Twenty horses were scratched from the May 11 race card, though by that afternoon few were still under observation.

"It stopped what could have been a huge fire and a huge disaster, and probably the tragic death of 200 horses," Plainridge president Gary Piontkowski told the television station.

Joubert said that the fire most likely began from a heating element used to warm water that was left unattended.