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The Williams family was getting ready to leave for church Sunday morning at Our Lady of Mercy in Hodgenville.
Orry, a freshman at Central Hardin High School, was opening the garage door of the family’s Elizabethtown home when he saw smoke wafting up from the barn several yards away.
The barn contained animals that he and his sister, Briann, a seventh-grader at East Hardin Middle School, had raised for 4-H. They had cared for many of the animals since birth.
Orry shouted that he saw smoke and ran to the horse side of the barn to release the five regular-sized horses and a miniature horse.
At first, the boy’s father, Brian, didn’t see anything. Then, he shot off to the sheep and goat side of the barn to let the seven nanny goats, three kids, five ewes, four lambs, miniature horse and donkey there loose.
The donkey jumped a gate and shot through the barn door. Brian and his family set to work pulling animals out of the barn and grabbing lambs and kids out of barrels where they were kept to keep their mothers from accidentally laying on them before the flames consumed everything.
Brian, a mixer driver for Kentucky Concrete and a part-time hay and livestock farmer, said fire was already all over when he opened the barn door.
“I saw smoke, flames, rolling fire, animals on fire,” he said.
Brian said a fire investigator told him that the fire that burned down his barn at 1225 Ford Highway likely was electrical.
The barn also contained two shorthorn show cows, said Shaune, Brian’s wife.
“They ran about four miles,” she said. “It took us all day to find them.”
The goats kept running back into the barn, possibly toward their kids, which they didn’t realize had already been rescued. The Williams family kept dragging them out of the barn to the yard where family members hosed down the flames and burning animals until the fire spread enough to make it unsafe to follow the goats back in.
Brian said by the time firefighters arrived, the barn had burned to the ground.
In the end, the family was able to save the cows, all of the horses except one miniature horse, the lambs, two kids and the sheep, though one sheep was badly burned and is still in danger of dying.
Orry’s miniature horse, Lola, died in the family’s front yard. The dead animals now lie in two graves on the property, one for Lola and one for the rest, Shaune said.
“If we’d have lost all the lambs and goats and kept Lola, that’d be fine with me,” she said.
Orry said the animals felt like family members.
Lola was Orry’s horse and his 3-year-old sister AddyMae’s favorite animal.
The family found the young girl hiding in a closet inside the house after doing what they could to save the animals. Since the fire, she keeps asking where Lola is, and she says she’s afraid of fire.
The surviving animals have been acting nervously and don’t come when they’re called.
Brian said the barn has been part of his life for the past 40 years because he has lived on the property all his life, and it seemed natural to rush into the burning building to try to save the animals.
“It’s just about like being a momma if you had a young one in there,” he said. The family is grateful that no one was hurt, that all but one horse survived and that the house didn’t catch fire.
If the fire had occurred even half an hour later, there might have been no one around to notice the fire until it burned much more of the property.
Brian hopes insurance will cover the damage. Until then, animals are being kept in every storage area that could be cleared to keep them warm.
Family, friends and neighbors have pitched in, offering to house some of the animals. The family is grateful for that, as well.
Amber Coulter can be reached at (270) 505-1746 or firstname.lastname@example.org.