Melissa's Message: The 2019 Fire
My name is Melissa. For those of you who don’t know me I am the primary caregiver for the FARRM animals. I don’t typically engage on social media, I have a team of incredible volunteers that manage this end of things for me. In fact, it is very likely I haven’t posted in years. However, FARRM is at a crossroads. The recent barn fire has turned our world upside down and in more ways than you can possibly imagine.
I would like to start at the beginning and work our way to present day. About 7 years ago my husband and I bought our first home. You have all come to know our home as FARRM. The day we moved in (literally) I had a home check done by another rescue to adopt two potbelly pigs. I had waited all my life to do so. We didn’t have furniture, no bed to sleep on or dishes in the cupboard but I had my husband pounding posts into a little corner of the property to put up the perfect pen for my prospective piggies. From that moment forward I got heavily involved in rescuing animals that had nowhere else to go. We started out working with another established rescue, and when they relocated we branched out on our own to become FARRM.
I would quickly learn that if there was anything more disposable than plastic cutlery it was a potbelly pig. As soon as people heard we were actively helping we were inundated with requests to take farm animals. As the years went by we continued to pinch pennies and sink every bit of what we had into making a home for our animals. Before we had the incredible community that we do now, most of our vet care, construction, feed purchases etc. were done entirely out of pocket. This made it difficult for us to ever put money away or get ahead in our own lives. As a result, our own personal home has gotten to a point where it is literally falling apart. It was only in November 2018 that we finally finished building an amazing home for all the FARRM animals and could finally focus on our own home, or so we thought.
Over the last 5 years we have spent every weekend, every evening into the middle of the night working on the barn. The barn became our home more than our own. My husband and I chose to build the barn ourselves so we could afford to provide the animals with nothing less than they deserved. We never spent a penny on labour and instead poured our heart and soul into building it year after year.
On April 11th, 2019 my husband and I watched the barn burn to the ground. Every Sunday morning spent watching the sun rise with the goats, every Christmas bringing special snacks wrapped in bows to our residents, all the laughter that filled our barn at any given moment, the memories vanished with the barn as they are too painful to relive.We know we are not alone in our grief, as every person who has ever visited shares in our memories too.
In 13 minutes, we lost our family and the building we poured our heart and soul into. 13 minutes that seemed like an eternity as we struggled to get our residents out and to safety. You all know what and who we lost. To speak more about it is too painful to bear currently and I cannot manage it. We do however want to let everyone know that on April 11th one of our heat lamps that had been securely fastened to the rafters exploded. We, along with the fire investigators can only guess that at that point the hot glass combined with fresh dry straw ignited the barn. It could have been a defect, a power surge, or any number of things. There is no way to know what caused it to break. The fire started by the main door in our old goat Annabelle’s pen, making it nearly impossible for any of the animals in the centre of the barn to escape. They were snuggled up in their houses as always, and that’s where they were when we later removed their bodies from the rubble.
On April 11th, 2019, we had just come inside to make dinner when there was a loud banging on the door. Someone driving past notified us that the barn was on fire... not just on fire but at the point of collapsing. It wasn’t even believable. We had just been out there. What ensued was a panic. My husband and I ran towards the barn in every direction we could, burning our hands trying to get through gates that were already too hot to touch. My husband burnt the ends of his shoes off trying to kick holes in walls where he knew houses were, and animals were likely to be.
We managed to get a lot of the animals out. They were trapped in pens beside the barn in temperatures so hot that structures nearly 50ft away were melting. They were scared, running into fences, and screaming in panic. Our dear Plummley, he ran back into the barn as I screamed and got tangled up trying to get over fences and get him out. We did our best, and yet we lost too many. The animals were impossible to reason with. All they knew was their home, and even though it was on fire and burning, they wanted to re-enter the building. It had always been a safe place for them. The entire night was a daze of confusion, vomiting, screaming. One of our long time residents Mortimer made it out, but was badly burnt while we attempted to get him away from the burning structure. We later had to make the decision to say our goodbyes to him.
As we tried to get animals out of burning pens people pulling up to our fence line and taking pictures. I remember screaming as we tried kicking holes in the sides of the barn... “help us please”. But they just watched. It was the most helpless feeling to see it all disappearing, crashing, exploding. The stranger that had notified us of the fire stopped me as I attempted to run into the back of the barn, desperate to help the one animal I knew was locked up in a pen... Daisy. It had not occurred to me that there was no hope of that happening. Instead I was pinned to the ground, left to sob while reality started to set in. This is a night I wish I could forget. In the days that followed it became obvious that some of our animals had suffered minor injuries from the panic. Sprained limbs, cuts, and bruises. All have since recovered.
The most heartbreaking of all injuries were those of our sheep Tony, our goat Billy, and our big pig Nakasha. Each of them having taken the loss harder than the others. Tony stood at the fence line for three days just staring at the barn. We couldn’t get him to eat or drink, or to look away. Billy, spent days looking for his mom and brother, neither of which made it out. And Nakasha, our sensitive soul. She appeared to be the most traumatized by the event. To this day the sounds of vehicles, visitors, and odd noises upsets her. Right now our residents are recovering and starting to enjoy the summer. They are living in horse shelters where they have protection from the elements. They are comfortable for the upcoming summer months. Right now our animals are living in makeshift lean-to’s for the summer and FARRM is at a crossroads.
FARRM could rehome every animal and break up the big family that you have all come to know and love or we can fight like hell and find a way to keep moving forward.
We will not give up. But we need your help more than ever. We have spent years providing a home for those in need, and now FARRM is in need of a home. Please help us.