By Angelica Ingram
On Tuesday Feb. 9 Haliburton resident Erin Nicholls stood outside watching flames shoot up in the sky as a decades-old barn in Eagle Lake burned to the ground.
The barn was home to a variety of animals including seven dogs that belonged to Nicholls who makes his living as a bear guide.
Nicholls was only able to save three of the seven dogs he told the Echo the day following the fire.
“It’s very sad” he said. “You know they’re just like family. I see them every day.”
The dogs which range from age three to 11 were hunting dogs said Nicholls. They included two males and two females which he described as a mixture of hounds. He called them “beautiful dogs.”
Nicholls has been a tenant living at the farm where the fire occurred since last October and chose to move there due to the quality of life he believed he was affording his animals.
“I wanted them to have a better winter” he said. “With the big arena there I was able to let them run there every day. It was just a great set-up. I just never dreamt that would happen.”
Inside the house when the fire broke out Nicholls said a neighbour came running in while he was in the basement trying to start a fire for the house.
“He actually went to the barn first because he was worried I was there … and then came and got me” said Nicholls. “He was a great help.”
Too upset to call 9-1-1 Nicholls and his neighbour Ryan Griffin ran right to the barn to get the dogs.
“I was able to save three. I’ve got an older female and there was two pups who were five months old that were together in a stall” he said.
The three dogs were in a stall near the front of the barn however the other four that didn’t make it out were located towards the back.
“It just broke my heart” he said. “We got the three out and then when we looked back in it was just all a wall of smoke … the whole barn was just a huge ball of fire at this point.”
At the time of the fire there were five horses who were all out on the field said Nicholls. The whole thing happened extremely fast and had Nicholls in shock.
“The hardest part is not being able to get them out” said Nicholls. “Ryan tried so hard we just couldn’t risk our lives to do it.”
Nicholls said he has no idea what started the fire. No one was in the barn at the time.
Dysart firefighters got the call around 11 a.m. and upon arrival found the barn fully engulfed in flames.
The farm belongs to Lorrie McCauley who has been operating it for about 35 years said Hunter McTeague who works with McCauley. The fire has upset McCauley but the plan at this point is to rebuild said McTeague.
The owner was not on site at the time of the blaze. Area residents and those connected to the property made their way there and watched the barn burn for more than an hour.
It is not yet known what the cause of the fire was said Maughan. Firefighters were loading up water from the shores of Eagle Lake and transporting it back to the scene of the fire which was located at 2311 Eagle Lake Road.
Maughan said his crew was on scene for about seven hours with different firefighters attending the blaze throughout that time. A total of 21 firefighters put out the fire. “There was no saving anything when we got there” said Maughan. “It was good to get some fresh legs to clean everything up.”
The fire chief went to the site the following day Wednesday Feb. 10 and saw that the fire was still smouldering. An insurance representative and fire investigator were there to survey the damage.
Maughan said the fire marshal will not be called in and he does not believe the fire was suspicious.
“Until they do some more tests they’re not sure what it was [that caused it]” he said.
He estimates the total damage to be around $400000. There was no damage to the house.
Nicholls said the community has been very supportive and helpful since the fire a true testament to the power of a small community.
“It just makes you feel so good” he said. “People are so good … that’s what’s great about a small community.”