B.C. farm threatened by wildfire battles to save 500 ostriches

A B.C. ostrich farm threatened by wildfire is receiving community help to protect hundreds of animals.

Universal Ostrich Farms Inc., southeast of Vernon near Edgewood, is included in one of 50 evacuation orders across the province.

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The Michaud Creek wildfire has been classified as “out of control” and has prompted the evacuation of 95 per cent of the town, according to farm co-owner Karen Espersen.

“We can’t leave because of all the animals here,” said Espersen. “Five hundred ostriches are almost impossible to relocate.”

“It’s not like herding cows.”

Espersen is one of six people who stayed behind to guard the farm from the encroaching blaze. They’ve set up perimeters around sections of the 25-acre property, weed-whacked bush and wetted down the ground and buildings — even the hay in the barn has been soaked to minimize risks from a stray ember.

But Espersen said they don’t have enough hose to wet down the entire perimeter of the farm, so they’ve moved the ostriches into three pens near some ponds.

“We are all hunkering down in the middle of the birds,” she says. “We have three fire pumps.”

They are not alone.

On Wednesday, Espersen’s niece started a GoFundMe page with the goal of raising $10,000 to help her aunt defend the animals, and thousands of dollars were donated.

Espersen says they have been overwhelmed by the support and will use all the money for animal feed and anything to protect them from fire.

At the same time, the farm is turning into a kind of ark for local animals left behind when other farmers fled. Espersen said she’s expecting the arrival of four pigs, a cow and three horses.

“If we can get feed to your animals, we’re helping out,” she says.

“We’re not going anywhere.”

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