‘I did what I needed to do;’ Sanctuary owner saves animals from barn fire

IVESDALE, Ill. (WCIA) — One woman’s heroics and those of firefighters saved a group of rescue animals on Friday when the Ivesdale sanctuary they live at caught fire.

A garage attached to a barn at Nova Pines Sanctuary started to burn around 3 p.m. Inside that barn were rescue pigs, rabbits, cats and dogs. Thankfully, none were killed, but sanctuary owner Rebecca Masters said it could’ve been a different story if she wasn’t home.

“I was sitting in the house, watching TV, and the lights started flickering, which I thought was obviously very odd because it’s a nice clear, dry, sunny day,” she said. “So, I looked out my garage, and I saw black smoke rolling out of the top of the garage on the building.

Upon seeing the flames, Masters said she went into “complete panic mode.” She rushed out to the barn and began rescuing her beloved animals.

“I did what I needed to do. I prioritized the best that I could.  And now, looking back, things could have been a lot worse,” Masters said. “There was no loss of life that I know of. Number one priority was getting those animals out. The building can be fixed, replaced, whatever, but my animals can’t.”

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Masters called 911 soon after and over 30 firefighters from seven departments responded.

Ivesdale Fire Chief James Brewer said the flames were visible when he arrived.

“First arriving engine noticed that there was a light smoke showing from the east side of the machine shed,” Brewer said. “We did encounter some flames and smoke in the air in the attic of the building.”

While attacking the flames, firefighters found and rescued a few rabbits that were still inside the barn.

“They’re one of God’s creatures,” Brewer said. “So if we’re able to help and save one, that’s a wonderful thing.”

The barn sustained heavy damage to its roof. But Masters is just grateful that the soul of her sanctuary is staying home.

“It makes me literally sick to my stomach to think if I wasn’t home today, what would have happened? I think things would have been much different,” she said. “So, if you want to get a positive out of a negative experience, I guess that that would be it. That I was here, and I was able to make sure that they were okay.”

Chief Brewer said the cause if the fire is believed to have been electrical in nature. The investigation is ongoing.

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