An Edmonton-area animal sanctuary is trying to move ahead after a barn fire claimed the lives of nine large animals Thursday night.
Fire crews from the City of Wetaskiwin were called to the Farm Animal Rescue and Rehoming Movement at around 6:20 p.m. When crews arrived on scene, there was no hope in saving the barn.
“The barn was fully involved upon our arrival and at that time the smoke was visible from the city itself,” chief Jamie Wilkinson told 630 CHED.
The sanctuary takes in surrendered and abandoned farm animals and offers care and space for them.
FARRM owner Melissa Foley said she and her husband had no idea their barn was on fire until a neighbour ran up and started banging on the door.
The two had just come in from the barn to make dinner and ran back outside to try and save as many animals as they could.
“By the time we ran out to the barn and were notified that there was a fire, most of it was already threatening to collapse,” Foley said. “We got as many animals out of there that we could but there were quite a few that tried to run back in and we couldn’t make it out.”
Nine pot-bellied pigs and goats died in the fire including Daisy, a blind goat that gained country-wide fame when she went missing from the sanctuary in September 2017.
“All I could say was, ‘my babies.’ And I just thought they’re probably in there wondering what’s going on and wondering where their mom is. And I wasn’t there. And I couldn’t get to so many of them. And that has played through my head since the moment I walked out and saw the flames taking our barn.
“I wonder if they knew that I loved them and that I didn’t do it on purpose and I would have helped them if I could have. I would never wish that upon any living thing, especially not my animals.”
WATCH BELOW: (Sept. 11, 2017) The owner of a blind baby goat is pleading for the animal’s return. Daisy has been missing since Sunday and needs special care. As Quinn Ohler reports, the entire animal-rescue community is coming together in hopes of finding Daisy.
Another pig is badly burned and Foley said they’re trying to make the animal comfortable while they find a vet who has experience treating this type of injury.
She’s not sure how many animals they were able to save as there are a lot of animals like chickens and feral barn cats on the property. Right now the sanctuary and its volunteers are trying to make the remaining animals as comfortable as possible.
It’s been especially hard on the goats who lost siblings and moms in the fire, Foley said.
“They keep walking back and forth on the fence line and they want to go back in their home, and it’s just not there anymore.
“It’s just immense sorrow. These weren’t just livestock, these animals had a story. They came to us for help, they came to us sometimes from terrible places and these guys, they were all individuals.
“Just like a person has a dog or a cat, these guys weren’t just goats. They weren’t just pigs. These guys were our family.”
The organization is looking to raise money to be able to get a temporary shelter in place for the feral cats. Foley worries for their safety at night since there are coyotes and foxes in the area.
Wilkinson said it’s too early in the fire investigation to know what caused the fire or how much the damage estimate will be. Foley — who built the barn with her husband over the last three years — figures the total loss will be as much as $50,000 as the couple had just loaded the top of the barn with winter hay and straw.
Wetaskiwin fire crews were on scene Thursday until about 11 p.m. and will be back on site on Friday afternoon to continue the investigation.
Wetaskiwin is about 70 kilometres southeast of Edmonton.