The Leadbeater family has received support from people across Ontario
By Diego Flammini
An Ontario producer is overwhelmed by the community response after her family experienced a barn fire on their farm.
People from Sault Ste. Marie to Ottawa have provided financial support, feed deliveries and other supports to Jenn Leadbeater’s farm in Newburgh, Ont., located in Lennox and Addington County.
“The community has helped out so much that’s going to hopefully allow us to repair and rebuild something close to what we had,” she told Farms.com. “To say the community has helped out is an understatement because the help has come from well beyond the people around here.”
Leadbeater and her husband James own J&J Farms in the community where they raise hogs, chickens, cows and board horses.
The fire happened on March 10.
Jenn prepared dinner inside when she noticed her son Caleb running towards the house with his girlfriend, who had her phone to her ear.
“It was around 5:30 in the evening and when I saw them, I thought maybe one of them got hurt,” she said. “When I looked up again, I saw smoke coming up from behind one of our buildings. I just yelled to everyone in the house that our barn was on fire.”
By the time the family got to the barn, the entire west end of the building was engulfed in flames.
Not thinking twice, they started to evacuate the animals.
“I think instinct kicked in and we started to rescue the animals,” she said. “My husband went to the cows, one of which was in active labour. She ran back into the pen to have her calf, and her sister followed her back in, so we lost them. My son went to one of the horses and I went to the mini ponies.”
None of the pigs could be saved.
Four units from the Stone Mills and Napanee dire departments responded to the fire and were able to keep it contained to the barn.
While the firefighters tried to control the fire, the Leadbeaters moved vehicles out of harm’s way.
“We did that for as long as we could until the fire department told us to stay away,” she said. “So, we just stood there, crying, watching as everything went up in flames.”
Fire crews finally got the fire under control after a neighbour with an excavator used it to bring the building down, Leadbeater said.
Hydro One was also on scene to tend to downed hydro lines.
The fire department estimates the fire caused about $600,000 in damages, but that doesn’t factor in the loss of livestock and equipment.
The fire department also believe a chewed wire is the cause of the fire.
“That night they said it was from one of our breaker boxes that ran other buildings,” she said. “He felt a rodent chewed on a wire that sparked the fire. And that’s where we had all of our hay, shavings and other flammable things. The insurance inspector confirmed.”
The fire departments left the scene at around 3:00 a.m. on the morning of March 11.
Leadbeater, who also drives a school bus, went to work that morning. When she arrived home after her shift, help already started coming in.
“It was about 8:00 and friends of ours were in the driveway with nine round bales,” she said. “From there, it hasn’t stopped. I can’t believe how many people, including lots we don’t know, have been there for us.”
The outpouring of support has inspired Leadbeater.
And if provided with an opportunity to help others like the community has helped her, she’s going to act on it.
“We’re the kind of farm to give donations to adoption agencies and things like that but I don’t think we’ve been in a situation where we’ve had to help another farm out,” she said. “But if someone had a fire, hands down I’d do everything I could to help them out.”
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help the family.
As of the afternoon of March 25 it has collected $5,078 of its $15,000 goal.