BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. -- David and Ronda Reyes awoke to the sound of fire engines pulling up to their Boulder County horse ranch early Sunday morning.
Neighbors had called 911 after seeing flames shooting up on the horizon near 95th Street and Hills View Drive in Niwot.
"I ran directly to the barn because my first thought is my horses are in there and ... obviously too late," David Reyes said as he fought back tears.
The barn is only 2 years old with a metal frame, which is all that remains in the rubble of the fire.
The four quarter horses were part of their dream for retirement and a source of daily pleasure.
"They were like our kids. We loved 'em that gave us ... they grounded us. I mean anyone who has animals, horses especially, understands," Ronda Reyes said.
Neighbor Janie Jill Tointon had raised three of the horses that she sold to the family and got to the scene while the fire was raging.
"To lose them like this and to watch them burn in the fire was probably the worst thing that I've ever experienced in my life," she said.
Boulder County investigators have determined the fire was human caused, but they are still doing forensic lab testing.
"It's hard to think about anybody would do something so horrific and awful to us, but it appears, though, the signs are leading that way," David Reyes said, shaking his head.
Neighbors said they are concerned for everyone's safety in the area.
Investigators with the Boulder County Sheriff's Office said it might take several weeks to pinpoint the exact cause and whether an accelerant was used.
Anyone with information is asked to call the sheriff's office.