Year after fire Rotterdam Junction couple rebuilds, welcomes lambs

Emmalyn Kirk sits with baby lambs Flake and Snow at the Hungry Chicken Farm on Route 5s in Rotterdam on Saturday.

Emmalyn Kirk sits with baby lambs Flake and Snow at the Hungry Chicken Farm on Route 5s in Rotterdam on Saturday.

ROTTERDAM – Almost a year to the day after a fire killed seven sheep, including five lambs, at a residence on River Road in Rotterdam Junction, the owners of the home and local shop The Hungry Chicken Country Store introduced two new lambs to the community. 

Inside a small pen, lambs Snow and Flake laid close to each other as community members stopped by to meet them, pet them and talk to owner Louise Dickinson on Saturday. 

On April 1, 2021 Dickinson was in bed when the fire broke out around 10 p.m. Her husband, Jeff Kline, was in another room facing away from the buildings – a large barn, cider mill and sheep shed.

“Everything we had in the barn was gone,” Dickinson said, noting it was an old wooden barn.

The fire caused $188,000 in damage between the loss of the buildings and other uninsured items, Kline said.

The fire caused the death of two sheep, Laverne and Shirley, and the five lambs they had just given birth to.

“By far the worst of it was losing the livestock,” Dickinson said. 

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Another sheep, Ernie, had been badly injured and the owners weren’t sure he’d make it.

But, on Saturday, Ernie roamed around an enclosed area with two other sheep, Kitt and Penny. 

Dickinson said a small part of Ernie’s ear is messed up from the fire and he has a small sore spot on his backside from the fire. But, on Saturday, Ernie showed no other signs of having been burned in a devastating fire as he gladly munched on feed from Kline. 

The couple also lost several chickens, she said. 

Dickinson said Kitt was one of their original lambs from Shirley, who they ended up selling two years ago. After the fire, Dickinson said she reached out to the person who bought Kitt and they were able to buy her back. 

“That meant a lot to us,” Dickinson said. 

Dickinson said after the fire support from the community poured in. In a post on the store’s website the owners recalled the night of the fire and the aftermath. 

“We got a lesson in the kindness of our community,” Dickinson said in the letter on the website.

As soon as people heard about the fire they stopped by the store looking for any way they could help, including making donations, said store manager Ginny Milgo.

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Milgo said she got a call the night of the fire frightening her boyfriend when she screamed out. But Milgo, who helped deliver the lambs, said she knew what she had to do–focus on helping the couple with the store so they had one less thing to worry about.

“I had to put it in fourth gear and go,” she said.

She said it was phenomenal watching people stop by to see Snow and Flake and check back in with the couple. 

Dickinson said Milgo was a rock during the ordeal. 

Family friend Cory Kirk sat with Snow and Flake as people stopped by to see them. She said seeing what the community did for the family was heartwarming. 

“It gives faith back to humanity,” she said. 

So Ernie wasn’t alone, Cecilia and Eric Tkaczyk, farmers in Duanesburg, brought over two of their sheep. 

Kyle Cejka and Glenville Construction helped build a new home for the couple’s chickens and other volunteers were able to save some eggs. One of those eggs hatched and the couple gained a rooster. Dickinson said it was thought the rooster was a girl so they named it Sparkles–turned out it was a male. 

Those were just a few of the community members that Dickinson said aided them. 

Besides the two new lambs, Dickinson and Kline have rebuilt the bard and cider mill. They plan to get the state Department of Agriculture and Markets there soon to approve the cider mill. They also plan to buy some chicks this year, Dickinson said. 

While at times it’s still hard to comprehend the loss, both Kline and Dickinson said they’re happy to be rebuilding and to know what kind of community they live in. 

“You get to really know how kind people are,” she said.

Reporter Shenandoah Briere can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on twitter on SB_DailyGazette.

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