Shortsville, N.Y. -- Two friends and fellow firefighters at Shortsville Fire Department opened Orchard Hills Farm last January.
“Usually it's just a duty, a job and you do what you got to do,” said farmer and volunteer firefighter Tim Kolodziejski, as he reflected on the Friday morning fire. “But when it hits home, close and personal, it's not as fun.”
They refurbished the barn themselves, and even took extra care when putting in the electric to prevent fire, but the farmers couldn't predict a work light would fall into straw and start a fire.
“We had to sit there and listen to all the animals and there was nothing we could really do,” said farmer and volunteer firefighter Nathan Boor.
Nathan was at the barn when the fire started around 8:15 a.m. Friday, but smoke kept him from saving all of their pigs.
“There was actually a wall dividing the barn in half,” said Boor as he showed us what was left of the barn that housed 26 pigs and two turkeys. “We were only able to fix up the first half because of lack of funds. We were going to finish up the other half this spring, that's why we were able to save a couple of them.”
Four pigs made it out of the barn, and so did two cats, but there was little hope of both surviving.
“When I was here at the door, ready to go in with the nozzle,” said Kolodziejski. “I watched one of them (the cats) run out on fire. You see that stuff as a fireman, but it really doesn't faze you until it's one of your own. That took me out of the fight right then and there. I had to go sit, I wasn't able to do anything after that.”
It took four fire departments -- Shortsville, Manchester, Farmington, and Hopewell -- less than an hour to get the fire under control.
“Got to take it one day at a time right now,” said Boor, “still settling in, it's not really real yet,”
But amidst the ashes was a sign not all is lost.
As we interviewed Boor, Kolodziejski and his wife heard a meow.
“She's back, dude,” shouted Kolodziejski, who found the cat that was last seen running out of the barn on fire. Kolodziejski and his wife immediately brought the cat to the vet, who is doing everything he can for the animal.
“This is very sad and depressing,” said Boor. “We can either sit here with our heads down or pick ourselves back up and say we can fix it. Seeing that cat brings back a little more hope.”
The farmers are working with insurance and hope to rebuild.
On Sunday morning the other cat returned. Both cats are at Kolodziejski's home and are doing well.