‘The farming community is amazing’: Thornton neighbors help family after deadly barn fire in Essa Township
Doug Burgin still can’t believe his eyes.
The Essa Township Fire Chief applauds nearby residents and the local farming community after stepping up assistance during a devastating fire that broke out in a barn near the County Road 27 and intersection of 20th Side Road August 7. This fire resulted in the death of 52 dairy cows.
By Sunday evening, farmers had started showing up with trailers, offering to house the nearly 140 cattle that had escaped from the barn.
“Four to five hours later, all dairy cows were picked up and transferred to other sites,” said Burgin, who called the fire one of the largest he had seen in 22 years in the department. “It was a very quick response. The farming community is amazing; it’s a pretty unique operation.”
A veterinarian also arrived on site to check the animals, he said.
Several farm buildings were damaged, including the large 300-400 foot long interconnected barn and a shed that stored straw and equipment. Office of the Ontario Fire Marshal will not investigate. The fire is not considered suspicious.
Embers from the barn also ignited a grass fire across the road, Burgin said.
The damage is estimated between 5 and 6 million dollars, although it could have been worse. A change in wind direction probably saved the farm.
“There’s no way we can find a cause,” Burgin said. “The level of damage is just too great.”
“My heart sank when I saw what was happening,” he said. “My first thought was that these firefighters are going to need drinks. It was so hot and humid. So I went to Cookstown and got cases of soft drinks, water and ice, (then) I stopped at the Essa Fire Department and asked if they could use pizza.
He left there, went to Ref and told the staff not to take any more calls from the public as they would need oven space to make pizzas for first responders and the affected farm family, the Kloostermans .
‘On our way to deliver pizza to the Kloostermans we were stopped by Mr (Kistler) of Keck Boarding Kennels on the 27th. He asked me if I had pizza for the farmers who were queuing up with their trailers carrying some cattle. Of course, I said ‘yes’, so I went back to the pizzeria (I went),” Staley said.
“We delivered a few to the farmers, then a few to the Essa fire on Robert Street, then a few slices to the police who had blocked all the roads. I wanted to help – and the only way I can help is to be a good neighbor.
Staley called the community’s response “so touching.”
“These (firefighters) must have lost 10 pounds each in a sweat,” he said. “But they were so well organized and so calm. Amazing to see these heroes in action. My heart goes out to the Kloostermans. They are well known in our community as an amazing and hardworking family. Thornton is such an amazing little town.
The family declined a request for an interview.
“He’s devastated,” Burgin said of the farm owner. “When we arrived, (the fire) was totally involved, back and forth.”
Firefighters worked through the night and still had a hot spot to put out when Simcoe.com went to the scene on Monday around noon.
Burgin also underlined the importance for drivers to respect the rules of the road, after reports that some emergency teams have been blocked by spectators.
“Vehicles are supposed to pull right and steer clear of emergency vehicles with headlights,” he said. “For rural firefighting, once we get out of our hydrant-protected areas, we have to haul our water to water tankers. People think that once the truck is there, it’s not going anywhere.
Correction — August 9, 2022: This article has been edited from a previous version which misidentified Mr. Kistler, who operates Keck Boarding Kennels with his wife.