There are few events that are more frightening than a barn fire. Particularly if that barn is home to beloved animals and filled with all that is necessary to operate your farm. Sadly, that is just what happened to Shapleigh homeowner James Warner on Tuesday, February 16th. Although Mr. Warner was at home when the fire erupted in his barn, winds were blowing away from the residence, and he was not aware of the situation until the building, filled with hay and feed for his poultry and livestock as well as farm equipment, was fully engulfed. Fire crews from several towns, including the Shapleigh fire department, fought the blaze. They arrived in time to save the residence; however the barn was a total loss.
Jim Warner’s biggest worry during the emergency was the fate of his late wife Cecilia Gordon’s horse, “Ducky” and the mare’s close companion, “Pearl.” He saw them run away from the burning structure to the edge of their fenced turnout and was fearful that they, along with his ducks, guinea hens, and chickens, would be killed or lost in the confusion of fighting the fire. Happily, Ducky and Pearl, a miniature donkey, stayed close together and also close to home.
Thanks to the good work of local officials, including the animal control officers involved, the Maine State Society for the Protection of Animals was able to immediately respond. Truck, trailer, and experienced horse handling staff were dispatched to the scene where, with the help of their distraught but relieved owner, Pearl and Ducky were loaded for a quick trip to New England’s premier horse shelter in Windham, Maine. Both horse and donkey were safely transported and settled into their temporary quarters without incident. The following day, nearly all of the poultry were safely accounted for. Since then, Jim Warner has learned that the fire started when his tractor battery exploded while charging in the barn. He knows he won’t ever chance charging unattended again, and he wants other folks to have the benefit of this knowledge.
Jim Warner, though still reeling from the unexpected fire and significant loss of his beautifully restored 1800s post and beam barn, has already traveled to the MSSPA to reunite with Ducky and Pearl in their temporary home. Both girls joyfully greeted Jim before returning their attention to their most favorite thing at the shelter, the hay pile! While MSSPA more commonly offers refuge to horses removed from neglect, everybody at the shelter was happy to open the paddock gates for the beautifully-cared-for and friendly pair of Ducky and Pearl. In addition to its core work of equine sheltering, MSSPA is available to help Maine horses and horse owners in a variety of situations, when emergencies such as this occur.