Photo Norm Lamothe.
An early morning fire on July 18th has destroyed five barns at Woodleigh Farms in Cavan Monaghan Township. It took five fire crews from Peterborough County and City of Kawartha Lakes stations to address the chaos and carnage at the scene on Sharpe Line as they responded to early morning calls reporting several barns ablaze. With the main structure more than 100 years old and the fire engulfing the adjacent buildings, there was no hope of saving the barns or livestock they housed, according to Cavan Monaghan Deputy Fire Chief Mike Tennant. It was the biggest blaze the local volunteer group had ever fought, and 30,000 square feet of barns were leveled within minutes.
As soon as they arrived, crews directed their efforts to limit the spread of the fire in order to preserve the family home less than 70 feet away. The Winslow and Lamothe families have operated Woodleigh Farms on this site since 1902.
While no people were injured by the blaze, the same cannot be said for the livestock. Several buildings were rented to the de Wolde family where he raised three breeds of purebred pigs. All 1500 of his animals perished in the blaze, wiping out a decade of breeding to build the herd. The animals’ genetic material is still available, dispersed across the country through the wonders of artificial insemination, but the road to recovery for this farmer is formidable.
About 10 years ago, Woodleigh Farms shifted its focus from pork to cash crop and maple syrup production, but that doesn’t lessen the blow to these families, who are devastated by impact of the fire.
Members of the farm community rushed to the aid of the families, bringing an excavator to remove the steel to allow firefighters access to hot spots to extinguish the fire, back hoes and trucks to remove the dead stock and debris, all done in accordance with strict dead stock disposal regulations.
Barn fires represent an ever-present threat to most farmers, and can stem from faulty wiring, spontaneous combustion of rotting feed or bedding or even lightning strikes. However they begin, they usually end with the destruction of entire buildings as well as livelihoods.
One of the neighbouring farmers who helped at the scene felt the community should do more. While the affected families are reluctant recipients of financial support, moral support is welcome. The families are grateful for those who helped with the clean up the site, delivered food as well as kind words as they faced the magnitude of their loss.
On September 30th, the community is invited to join their neighbours at an event called a Celebration of the Farm, hosted by Ann and Gary Nelson at 1046 Sharpe Line in Cavan. Come and meet your local farmers and thank them in person for the work they do to put nutritious food on our tables at prices that are the envy of most nations. KG