BY BILL WOLCOTT
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — BLASDELL — The weekend before a new barn was to be raised at the Lakeview Animal Sanctuary, another fire struck Sandi Pfohl’s animal rescue mission.
Her 1999 Chevy Blazer was destroyed in a fire while her entourage was enroute to the annual Pro Plan Rally to Rescue Adoption at the Big Tree Firehall on Saturday. There were no serious injuries reported and, yes, Thomas T. Butterball, the wild turkey which was rescued by Pfohl several years ago, survived fire again to celebrate his 11th Thanksgiving.
Pfohl and Pete Marko were leading in a truck pulling a trailer with more than 12 animals for the petting zoo. Ricky Olsen and another woman were in the Blazer which began to smoke after they left the Thruway at Route 179, Mile Strip Road. Pfohl was alerted by phone.
“I didn’t see it go up,” Pfohl said. “We turned around and it was fully engulfed in flames.”
The women escaped the Blazer and so did Thomas T. Butterball and Angel, Pfohl’s pet dog. The turkey, which survived the devastating barn fire on Oct. 11, was quickly corralled on the side of the road. The dog, a black and white mix, ran across Mile Strip and had to be chased down.
Donna Erickson, the person in charge of the Rally to Rescue, was waiting anxiously at the hall. Lakeview’s petting zoo has been a popular part of the Pre-Holiday Pet Expo since the rescue began four years ago.
“I went outside to look for them and was thinking, ‘where the heck is the petting zoo?’ “ Erickson said. “The kids love it. They give pony rides. Tom Turkey walks around the hall visiting people.”
Erickson soon learned of the fire. “Word spread. Everyone was worried,” she said.
The Big Tree Volunteers and the Hamburg Fire Company responded. Finally, Erickson saw the truck and trailer pull in.
“Sandi almost collapsed in my arms. My heart fell on the floor for her,” Erickson said. “She had a blank stare on her face, with tears running down her face. She was pretty shook up.”
Lakeview Animal Sanctuary in Pendleton went up in flames on Sept. 11 and Pfohl lost about 80 of the animals she had rescued and housed. She had to be rescued by Pete Marko before the barn collapsed.
It was devastation, but she decided to rebuild with the help of friends, neighbors and the board of directors. There were benefits and donations. Now, she’s lost her rescue truck, GPS, canes and the rescue equipment. But fortunately no more animals.
Pfohl was ready to use the gift certificates donated by businesses to the Sanctuary. They were on the dashboard of the Blazer and lost in the flames.
“...and she keeps plugging away,” Erickson said. “I’ve never seen a woman with her stamina.”
Erickson who operates the Peace of Heaven Kitten Rescue said, “It’s hitting home with me. It rips the heart of out me as well.”
Pete Marko, who suffered a minor burn on his arm while rescuing Pfohl in September, burned his arm again in the Blazer fire. There was no fire insurance on the 13-year-old truck.
There were two horses and assorted goats, sheep and llamas in the trailer. Erickson was able to supply a bail of hay for the horses and animals were put on their show at the the petting zoo.
Pfohl was back home in Pendleton on Monday. “I’m a little depressed,” she said. “It’s too much stress.”
There is the barn work to look forward to. Lafarge donated 150 tons of stone and the ground work has been laid.