Fire broke out around 2 p.m. Jan. 26 in a barn belonging to Kasandra Charby, her husband Chris Wallis, and their three children, claiming the lives of their beloved animals. Fire crews from Brome Lake, Sutton, and Waterloo made their way to the farm in Iron Hill to battle the blaze, the cause of which remains unknown.
With many of the animals being raised on the farm since birth, the loss has been devastating for the family and the community has rallied around them to ensure they have all the support they need.
“We did the chores, we cleaned the stalls, we put the horses out, and then decided to go inside and have a cup of tea and hot chocolate. We went inside and played some cards, then I said okay let’s watch some Heartland. I went to the bathroom where the window looks out towards the barn and all is saw was white. I got closer and smoke was just pouring out of the barn door and windows,” said Charby.
Charby ran outside to the barn in sock feet to try and reach the animals inside, but it was so smoky she couldn’t see anything. Wallis started shovelling snow towards the front door of the barn while Charby ran back inside, hit the panel for the alarm system, grabbed a pair of boots, and the hose. “But the hose was frozen because it was so darn cold. There was no noise or any sounds so I think the animals were already gone by the time we saw it. We had just been outside moments before. The baby was just playing with his chicken for a half hour and was trying to get it to follow him for some grain.”
They called 911 at 1:57 p.m. and the fire crews began to tear down the walls of the barn to help stop the spread of the flames. “In a half hour it was finished. We were just standing back, helpless, watching it burn.”
The family has been on the farm for 14 years and they never changed any of the electrical wiring or had any heating devices in the barn besides a light to help keep the piglets warm, leading them to question what could have happened for such a large fire to break out. “We didn’t have a heater. There was not a single heater plugged in or even in storage for the barn. When the horses were put in the barn, the body heat was enough. The little piggies need that light, but it was all proper equipment and I didn’t make or produce or anything. The four wheelers haven’t run since the summer time, they were purely in storage. I don’t know and just think it’s one of those things we are never going to know.”
While the barn can be rebuilt, the family is grieving the loss of their animals, which Charby has raised since birth. Losses include six piglets, 13 hens and roosters, 11 rabbits, and their beloved barn cat of 12 years, Diesel.
“I spent a lot of time out there. Every morning, every night, I’m always in the barn. I was trying to be self-sufficient as possible, so I was trying to breed here so that the animals that laid the eggs, were born here and the meat from them originated here. The piglets were born here, I helped all the mothers deliver on the farm, all the chickens were hatched in the house with our incubator, Diesel was born 12 years ago right in the bedroom. Every animal that was lost, minus one rooster that we took in as a rescue, was born here. It’s a big piece of me.”
When speaking to Brome County News on Thursday, Charby only just took notice that the heat from the flames also caused damage to their home. “The people are fine, there was no one in the barn, we are all fine. The barn is close to the house, but wind was blowing the right way. All the siding is warped on the entrance of the house. Our house almost caught fire; all the plastic siding is drooping. We are lucky the wind blew perfectly away from the house. The firemen said they could see the smoke from town. It was a cloud and it was massive.”
After learning of their situation, neighbours showed up to support the family, some even offering to take in their horses while they cleaned up the space to bring them back home.
“We are grateful to the amazing Lac-Brome, Sutton, and Waterloo fire departments, made up of so many dear friends, for their heroic efforts to get the fire out quickly. Also for my family, friends and neighbours for all their support during and since the fire; the love and generosity is humbling. I love my town, and even in all this, we are blessed.”
A gofundme has also been set up by Charby’s cousin at https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-the-wallis-family-barn-fire?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=p_cp%20share-sheet&fbclid=IwAR3Wk_NnMJEEq5xZMeBAWbbiroim9VhdsagBtGk26NKO95xHMcSfJ8OKdbQ