Cattle trapped after barn roof collapse

One animal dead, three injured

KELSEY POWER PHOTO An image capturing the icy conditions of Hamms Hill Rd. in Blockhouse with the farm where the barn roof collapse occured.

An image capturing the icy conditions of Hamms Hill Rd. in Blockhouse with the farm where the barn roof collapse occurred.

A barn-roof collapse in Blockhouse has left one prized cow dead and three others injured.

“Nothing will replace these animals that we’re losing. They’re not only pets they’re show animals. They’re purebreds,” said Carman Rhodenizer the morning of the devastating accident on February 22.

“We’re not meat market. This is family-run introduction to farming. It’s devastating.”

An accumulation of snow and water on the roof apparently led to the collapse, which was discovered around 8 a.m. The barn was last checked at 10:30 p.m., and nothing unusual was heard or seen between these hours.

The fire departments of Mahone Bay, Cornwall, Blockhouse and Lunenburg, along with other volunteers including friends and neighbours, responded to the emergency. Fifty or 60 men and women were on the scene. The roof of the building had to be cut through in order to remove the injured animals. Four other cattle had escaped on their own.

The cattle reportedly were inside the barn because their pasture had been inaccessible due to poor road conditions.

“It was unnecessary. It could have been totally avoided,” said Ms Rhodenizer.

“My husband was calling the Department of Transportation numerous days in a row, and they felt that our road wasn’t necessary. It wasn’t important enough, even though he spoke to them numerous times telling them that our animals were in the fields, that our haylage was in the fields that we had to get the animals up to be fed.”

They had been having trouble getting their tractor up to the pasture as the road in between the barn and the pasture, which also happens to be the road leading to their own driveway, had been too slippery due to the recent weather. Mr Rhodenizer had been told their situation didn’t constitute an emergency relating to a fire or ambulance call.

“Because the DOT has not been there in quite some time, though they had been trying to get them to come the road was absolutely so icy that our truck, which was chopped and wheel chopped, ended up sliding down the road,” said Paula MacDonald, chief of the Blockhouse fire department, who coordinated all of the departments’ efforts that day.

“Because it was a roof collapse, we could get out and lug our gear and we successfully got to the animals, but if it was a structure fire the amount of time it took them to change over from salt to sand it would have been too long.”

The Department of Transportation took two hours to get to the scene and arrived after much of the activity was finished.

“We had one girl from the Blockhouse fire department drive down from the Valley back here and made it before the Department of Transportation got out here to sand this road today,” said Ms Rhodenizer.

Chief MacDonald said most departments had to park on Cornwall Road, with their firefighters walking the rest of the way. Only one fire truck was able to make it to the home.

The collapse occurred at a family-owned cattle farm of 35head on Hamms Hill Road.

Dr. Robert Wentzell, a South Shore veterinarian, was on the scene to check on the injured animals.

Though the Regional Emergency Management Organization did not have to be called to any incidents, representative John Collyer said in an e-mail that all recent collapses in the area were, “reminding the public, barns and other outbuildings are sometimes not built for the snow loads we have seen recently. Sagging and leaks can be symptoms of stress on building roofs. If these warning signs are noted, animals should be removed and put some place safe.”

Ms Rhodenizer said she and her family did not have this option due to the condition of the road between their barn and pasture.

“We understand the frustration the landowners feel at the loss of their property,” said Department of Transportation spokesman Darcy MacRae in an e-mail following the incident.

“The barn is on a gravel road and unfortunately, gravel roads can get slippery with fluctuating temperatures combined with the variation in precipitation such as we’ve been having.”

He said the department arrived on scene as quickly as possible following the roof collapse.

As originally published in LighthouseNOW Progress Bulletin

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