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Donations pour in for burned out reptile park

'We have spent a fortune setting everyone up properly and caring for them. We have taken on massive debt. We have worked 100 hour weeks. This was our entire life. For over 20 years now this has consumed us. Our time, money, blood, sweat and our tears have all burned away in the fire'

It looks like Steve and Holly Featherstone have struck a chord with animals lovers and those that have seen performances of the Reptile Adventure Camp

The couple suffered a tragic fire Friday.

See: 70 animals perish in garage fire

The fire started in a wood stove which was used to heat the garage after the power went out during Friday’s storm. Bonfield volunteer firefighters rushed to the scene.

A Gofundme page is set up and as of 2:30 p.m. Monday, the $5,000 goal been smashed, with over $13,000 being donated in just one day.

Steve Featherstone recounts the time leading up to the fire.

"After a very busy summer with shows and summer camp, Holly and I decided to take some time for ourselves. We are currently in South Carolina and are attending my first Carolina Panther game tomorrow with some of our best friends and their family. This was a very quick (3 day) last minute trip and was exactly what we thought we needed.

"We left family and staff with the animals and our home. Yesterday (Friday) we had some major storms and wind damage and we lost hydro. Kendra (daughter) was on top of things and was monitoring temperatures in the garage. It was one of the first cooler nights and the temps were dropping fairly quickly after not having any heat/hydro for 4 or 5 hours. Our back up was a generator which worked great all summer and unfortunately would not start. Our third option was the wood stove. A smile fire was lit and monitored and the temps started to increase. Kendra went back into the house and came back to the garage 10 minutes later to find a lot of smoke and flames. She immediately called the fire department who arrived on the scene very quickly. Three trucks and eight staff members worked on the fire until 4 a.m. They were able to contain it to just the garage preventing it from spreading to the woods or house. Unfortunately, the entire garage was destroyed and most of the animals perished in the fire.

"Kendra initially kept trying to go into the garage disregarding her own safety to attempt to rescue the animals. The smoke and heat were so bad numerous attempts against my wishes failed. I am so thankful and relieved that she was not injured and so proud of her for reacting calmly, taking control and attempting everything and anything she could. No matter how much we love and care about the animals we cannot put human life or safety ahead of theirs.

"Thank you so much to the Bonfield Fire Department for keeping our forest, home, and property safe. I know they did everything they could do to keep everyone safe. Thank you so much for keeping my family safe for me to come home to."

Bonfield Mayor Randy McLaren also had high praise for his volunteer department.

"They were already pretty occupied that day with downed power lines and all the other things happening," McLaren told BayToday. "Most of them had been on high alert and standing guard over things and this call came in around midnight so it occupied them the rest of the night. They basically gave up their whole weekend to serve the municipality."

And McLaren isn't surprised his community has reached out so quickly to help.

"He has a pretty broad base of support prior to this. Since his arrival a couple of years ago he's got on our recreation committee and really involved himself in the community so as a result, I'm not surprised to see his level of support for anything he chooses to do regarding a recovery.

Staff was able to find two Alligator Snapping Turtles and a big American Alligator "Mojo" alive and well in their enclosures under the water. 

Featherstone says efforts have already started to get things back in motion.

"I reached out to Paul 'Little Ray' Goulet and Little Ray's Reptile Zoo today for some help. This is the company I worked for in Hamilton for four years before moving north. They are going to take Mojo and the large snapping turtle until we have a solution and plan. 

"The animals we lost are our main concern. Over 70 animals we took in were housed in the garage. We lost an irreplaceable skulls and natural history collection, tonnes of equipment, and my eight kayaks that were stored on the garage wall.

"Although very early I wanted to post something as we live in a small community and wanted everyone to know what happened. Holly and I will be back Monday. Property cleanup will be ongoing.

"We have always worked so hard to provide the absolute best care we could for the animals. We have put them first every time. We have spent a fortune setting everyone up properly and caring for them. We have taken on massive debt. We have worked 100 hour weeks. This was our entire life. For over 20 years now this has consumed us. Our time, money, blood, sweat and our tears have all burned away in the fire.

"We are all absolutely devastated. We are trying to process the situation. Please allow my family, staff, and friends time to process and deal with this incident that will forever be on our minds and in our hearts.

"Hug the ones you love. Don't take anything for granted."

Jeff Turl

About the Author: Jeff Turl

Jeff is a veteran of the news biz. He's spent a lengthy career in TV, radio, print and online, covering both news and sports. He enjoys free time riding motorcycles and spoiling grandchildren.
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