MANSFIELD, PA. (WETM) – Community members are coming together to help Windy Mesa farm in Mansfield, Pennsylvania after a fire killed dozens of animals and destroyed 4 structures. It happened around 10:30 p.m. on Wednesday, February 15th.
“I’ll never forget it” said Kristen Lehman, the daughter of farm owner Russell Lehman. “I was just laying down to bed when I rolled over and saw bright orange through the window. I started running and yelling ‘call 911, the barn is on fire!’
Lehman says she ran outside to find several structures burning as high winds sent embers flying. She told 18 news reporter Nicolas Dubina she rushed to free as many animals as possible. Lehman said she suffered 3rd degree burns, mostly to her shoulders and upper back. “I had my nightgown on, so basically the parts that weren’t covered.” She was treated and released from a hospital.
Lehman says her brother-in-law’s nephew also arrived at the scene immediately and started saving animals. When firefighters arrived, Lehman says one of them used an axe to carve out an opening in a chicken coop that was on fire, allowing chickens to escape. Lehman also told 18 news an electrical wire came down during the blaze. Firefighters were also up against intense winds. Lehman says hoses needed to be aimed about 30 feet away from the structures, so the wind could blow water into the flames. Two days later, flames were still burning through some structures.
Lehman says she doesn’t have an exact count, but she estimates at least 40 goats, 20 sheep and lambs, 5 cattle, 4 pigs, dozens of chickens, guineas, ducks, as well as 150 rabbits died in the fire.
Lehman says 30 to 40 cows and calves survived because they were not inside their barns at the time of the fire, because the weather had been nice over the last few days. At least 7 goats also survived, as well as some chickens. All of the cats on the property also survived. The home on the farm was not damaged, but Lehman told us it “felt really hot” inside the home. Lehman says the farmland is shared with another farm, Grazin Colors, which was not damaged. The animals usually move back and forth between the farms as they graze on different pastures.
Lehman says investigators are still looking into the cause of the fire. Friends and neighbors have been offering to shelter surviving animals, and are donating food, supplies and hay. A GoFundMe page set up for the family has raised $3,740 so far, with a goal of $10,000. The GoFundMe page says the family did not have insurance.
A fundraiser spaghetti dinner and bake sale benefiting “the Lehman & Brooks family” will be held Saturday March 18th at 4 p.m. at the Tioga County Fairgrounds.