Our Barn Fire, and the loss of our dairy goats

A metal bucket that was burned in the fire

On January 8, 2012, we lost our almost two-year-old metal pole barn and our herd of dairy goats in a fire. 

Fire is absolutely devastating. I'll never forget this day, and it's still so painful for me to think about. I gloss over it and move on... 

This is what I wrote the day after the fire:

"Yesterday our goat barn burned to the ground. I lost 9 does, all pregnant, 5 doe kids, and my registered buck. They'd been put away in the barn for the night.

"When our neighbors saw the smoke, they came to help while we waited for the fire trucks, but nothing could be done except use the garden hose to try to keep the fire from spreading.

"The other two bucks were in another pen and are ok. The horses were in the pasture. One of the two yard dogs was missing for several hours but she did show up. The barn cats have come back one by one from wherever they were hiding. We also lost our hay, and all the feed that was stored in the barn."

One of the two surviving bucks died the next day. I assume it was from smoke inhalation. 

What used to look like this:

Light brown metal pole building, under construction
See the barn raising here

Became this...

The goat barn, destroyed by fire.

The following Saturday some of my 4H girls, their families, and friends from my trail riding group came to help clean up. We moved bent metal, picked up burned and melted junk, and pulled up the brick floor in the workshop corner. 

The youngest helper was 8 years old, but she worked hard carrying found tools and bricks to one pile or another, and picking up nails and screws.

A bucket full of burned nails, screws and other small metal objects.

It was amazing to realize that plastic melts into nothingness. There were a few hunks of solidified plastic goo, but so many buckets and other items were just gone without a trace.

Two blobs of melted metal on a wooden background

Random, unidentifiable, melted metal objects. 

I think this piece of metal below was the Chief's aluminum extension ladder.

A piece of burned, melted metal on a wooden background

The piece is less than a foot long; there is a matching piece, both found where the ladder should have been, so I am sure they are all that's left of the ladder. 

I couldn't help it, I had to look it up: aluminum melts at 1,220°F.

Two burned metal buckles and a metal washer

I think these two buckles were from the horse blankets that were stored in a Rubbermaid plastic tote.

“There are three things that are never satisfied,
four that never say, ‘Enough!’:
the grave, the barren womb,
land, which is never satisfied with water,
and fire, which never says, ‘Enough!’

Psalm 30:15-16 NIV

I had one very tough moment when I dissolved into tears, but for the most part I was able to work alongside everyone else. Having people to talk to really helped. It kept my mind occupied.

The relatively flat and straight metal siding that was left will go to the home of one of the 4H-ers to fix up their horse barn. Her mom says it needs some serious help, such as "new" metal on the roof to cover the holes. 

The rest - the bent and warped metal - will be recycled as scrap, once our flatbed trailer is usable again or we find someone who will haul the scrap away for us. 

We need to replace the tires on one side of the trailer, which had been parked next to the barn. The paint on the frame was burned off, the wiring has to be replaced, and the floorboards were scorched, but the trailer can be repaired. 

I'm so thankful to all who helped that day, and so grateful for their help.

One month later

The barn fire was one month ago today.

I certainly wouldn't have asked for the experience, but I know how much I have grown because of it.

For one thing, I am not as fearful now. That sounds paradoxical, doesn't it? Hard to explain, but true. I know the Lord will get me to the other side of wherever He takes me. He won't give you more than you can handle - with His help.

A black and white Nubian goat lying on a rocky ledge.

One of the goats I lost in the fire was Treasure, pictured above as a yearling. I was particularly fond of her from the first moment she was born, on the day after my birthday. 

Her name was a reminder to me though, to hold on loosely:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
Matthew 6:19-21 NIV

I'm leaning on the Everlasting Arms...

The trailer is now road-worthy again. We've fenced along the back of the barn site, so that the front yard is once again fenced all the way around. The hayfield is now fenced and the horses are really enjoying having access to that field, which we will do every winter from now on

Three horses in our winter pasture

The last round bale I bought, which had been on the trailer, is still unopened. And with the lesser demand for hay now, it should last a long time.

A round bale of hay in front of a white pickup truck.

And I think I'm ready to start a new herd.

One year later...

Even after a year, I was still dealing with the fire, with the loss of the goats all in one feel swoop. Even though I've started over with a herd of four kids - now almost yearlings - I still miss my girls. There's a lot of guilt involved as well as sorrow.

According to the fire chief, it was an electrical fire that began near the panel. We don't know if it was just a random thing, or if one of the goats chewed through a wire or set off a spark in some other way. Since Lark's body was found nearby, I'm guessing she chewed on a wire, which shorted out, sparked, and that was all it took.

I am so indebted to Cheryl, who brought her menfolk over to bury the goats for me while she took me on a walk, so that I could remember them as they were and not see the reality of what had happened.

Thank you to the friends who came over the following weekend to help us clean up.

Thank you also to those who helped replace the hay and feed that burned, because the horses still had to eat. You know who you are, and I appreciate each and every one of you.

Thank you to our daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter who surprised us by flying in for a visit to help us do whatever needed to be done. 

With their help, we finished fencing in the hayfield so that the horses could graze, lessening the need for hay, but the true value of that visit was to take my mind off what had happened and help me establish a new routine that didn't include milking.

And thank you to all of you readers as well. Some have joined us here since that time, others found this blog because of that tragic day, and still others have been here from the beginning. Your support and prayers and comments helped me through that time, and I am thankful to all of you for being here.

Two years later...

Other than giving a trailer-load of the flat-est metal to some friends for their own barn repairs, the junk left from our fire sat there untouched for nearly 2 1/2 years.

It had been moved to a corner of the yard, and every morning I tried to ignore it.

Two wheelbarrows full of metal debris from the barn fire

The Chief and I have tried to find someone who would be willing to remove the metal in return for the recycling money, but we were unsuccessful until this past weekend. 

Four men arrived with four trucks and flatbed trailers early one morning.

5 men cleaning up the metal debris from the barn fire

They filled three of the trailers with barn metal, burned items, and metal junk. They found two snakes, a lot of scorpions, and several large rats while they worked.

A man loading twisted and burned metal onto a trailer

The fourth trailer was filled with pieces of pipe and other metal items that we've been wanting removed for years. 

When we purchased our land here at Oak Hill, it had been abandoned for some time and was a wreck, to say the least. We've been cleaning the place up ever since moving here, and had several piles we've been anxious to get rid of.

And now it's gone.

Now we need to dispose of the burned wood and melted plastic junk from where the remains of the barn had been piled and level out the ground with the tractor. I want to plant a tree where the goats are buried, perhaps a redbud. 

I will no longer be reminded of that awful day every time I walk out the door.

Here are my ten important tips to prevent a barn fire.

A memorial to the goats lost in the fire: Never Forgotten


My hope is to inspire you, and to encourage your homesteading plans and your dreams of a
simple, self-reliant, God-dependent life. You can follow me at: 
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