From the Brantford Expositer:

Witteveen barn burns down

By Stephanie Harrington

Saturday, June 12, 2004 - 01:00

Local News - It was a surreal scene Friday afternoon as 12 of Harry Witteveen’s prized Friesian horses galloped around a pasture on his Governor’s Road farm in a haze of smoke that billowed from his nearby barn.

Shortly before 4:30 p.m. the dome-like structure on top of the barn had caught fire at the farm, east of Paris. Carol Witteveen-Belair was on the barn’s main floor at the time. She was tending to 10 of the family’s 50 Friesians that the Witteveens — featured last year on Martha Stewart’s lifestyles television show — are renowned for breeding.

Witteveen, a former Brant warden and founder of Witteveen Meats on Highway 24, was in the cupola. He spotted the fire first.

“My father started to yell, ‘Fire,’” Witteveen-Belair said, still shaken from the incident more than an hour later.

Witteveen-Belair looked up and saw flames above her head. She yelled for someone to call 911. Her father descended from the cupola. They turned their attention to the horses.

“I started flinging the gates open to let the horses out.”

The animals were freed. The Witteveens tried to save some of the training equipment stored in the barn. They moved a golf cart and tractor out of the way.

Passerby Francois Lamoureux, 51, of Brantford parked his car and ran up to the farm to help.

“It was just one giant flame. The whole barn was engulfed in flames,” Lamoureux said.

A car parked near the barn was lost in the fire, he said.

“I couldn’t get at it cause it was so hot. You could feel the heat from the road,” he said.

Lamoureux stepped back once firefighters from Paris, Tranquility and St. George stations arrived. About 45 firefighters from eight county trucks worked to douse the smoldering barn with more than 125,000 litres of water.

Dozens of vehicles lined Governors and Golf roads, as curious onlookers squinted to catch a glimpse of the fire that could be seen from as far away as Paris Road. By 5 p.m., the dome-like structure on top had collapsed, leaving a gaping metal hole.

Three of Witteveen’s carriages — pulled by the Friesians at fairs locally and in Toronto — were destroyed. A tonne of grain, delivered just last week, went up in smoke. Training equipment was lost, although a collection of saddles and equestrian items were safely stowed in another barn. The barn will have to be rebuilt.

The cost of damages wasn’t known Friday, nor was the cause of the fire. Police are investigating the incident, which is being treated as accidental, said Const. Karen Faguy of Brant OPP detachment.

The Witteveen’s barn fire was the second in Brant County in a week. A larger fire on Ayr Road last Friday caused more than $750,000 in damages, said Geoff Hayman, fire prevention officer for Brant.

Despite the extensive damage, the Witteveens are thankful everyone is safe — including the horses who will stay out in pasture until the barn is rebuilt.

“This can be replaced,” Witteveen-Belair’s husband, Ron, said, looking at the charred structure, “Lives can’t.”