I was dressed to go to a meeting. My husband was dressed to go to work. Within minutes, those clothes would smell like smoke as we put out a fire in our barn.
It only takes five minutes to check the barn to see if there are any new lambs. When my husband didn’t come in, I went to the back porch. All I saw was the shed door wide open and smoke rolling out. I stepped off the porch to hear him yell, “Turn on the water.”
When I made it inside the barn, he already had moved the ewe and her twins from the lambing pen and beaten down the small flames inside by dousing it with water from nearby buckets. Smoke still was escaping through the doors. The straw smoldered.
We sprayed down the inside and outside of the barn and the pen. Only then could we truly see the extent of the damage and how blessed we were that it did not spread to nearby pens.
The fire was so hot that it burned through our board along the backside of the pen and into the metal barn. It burned through one post and then another along the bottom. It appeared to move to the driest part of the straw and barn.
There in the pen was the fire source — a heat lamp with its bulb distended, burned and ready to explode.
Decades of use
For those not familiar with sheep production, most lambs are born in the cold winter months. To keep them warm, we often hang heat lambs. I have used these type of metal lamps ever since I was in 4-H as a kid. We even used it for pigs. So, hanging these lamps is just common practice.
Typically, we secure it with one wire. How it came loose, why it came loose, we simply don’t know. But when the wire did, the heat lamp dropped closer to the dry straw, warming it to the point of creating a fire.
While ours was a small fire, we were blessed to have no livestock losses. However, we know of other farms, whether sheep or hogs, that lost everything.
I think back on the times I’ve heard or read about barn fires and then quickly passed judgment. They must have done something wrong. It must have been negligence. Why didn’t they get there sooner?
After my small barn fire, I realized those farmers already were questioning themselves. I didn’t need me to do it for them, or behind their back. Furthermore, they had suffered a far greater loss. They were mourning the death of their animals and their barns, something many, like us, built from the ground up.
So, the next time you hear about some catastrophe on the farm and start entertaining negative thoughts, consider this: It is not fun to look out the back door and see smoke billowing from the barn.
In that moment, it doesn’t matter the clothes you have on, the meeting you are missing, the job you are late for, or the wiring you didn’t see come loose. You run, because what matters most is in there — your loved ones, your livestock and your legacy. No one should be condemned for that.