News 12 at 11 o'clock / Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2012
HEPHZIBAH, Ga. (WRDW) -- Almost 300 animals are in need of food after the storage barn at a wildlife ranch burned to the ground. Fifteen years of animal support supplies, like cages and rehabilitation equipment, were all stored in the building that burned down.
Now, Graystone Ranch is asking for your help. Although they need to replace everything, they say the most immediate need is the food because they can only make it to the end of the week with what they have left.
"It got hot enough that it kinda melted in on itself," said owner Rusty Eskew as he held a melted bird cage in his hands.
Piles of debris are leftover after a fire on New Year's Eve destroyed one of his barns.
"This was the heart, this was the beginning, this is where every animal that came in, this was the start of his journey here," he said.
The Eskews started the ranch 15 years ago as a wildlife education center and rehabilitation center for animals.
"Last year we took in a little over 3,000 animals," Eskew said.
Today they have almost 300 animals and most of their support equipment was inside the storage barn.
"When you stand there and you look at thousands of dollars of food go away, it's not the kid's toys and the memories, this is the barn you go to to retrieve the next meal," he said. "So that's the part where you just go wow what do I do."
Now they're reaching out and asking for help.
"Right now more than anything, forget the building, forget the enclosures, we need the food," he said. "We need to feed these animals."
He says so far no animal has missed a meal or not been cared for because of this fire, but what they have left will only last a matter of days.
"What's the loss? The loss of being able to take care of God's little critters," Eskew said. "We need some help right now to feed these critters to get them on through until spring time."
Right now is really a down time at the ranch. Spring and summer are their big months.The ranch charges $10 for entry and save that money to help them make it through the winter.
"One of the questions is gonna be, 'Well did you have insurance?' Sure we did. There's probably a $50,000 loss behind me and there's about $16,000 worth of insurance coverage on this building," Eskew said.
Right now, they say they will take any donations, although food is the biggest need. They say that extra heating pad in your closet or scrap wood from a construction project, they can use it.
To help you can contact the ranch by calling them at (706) 360-0808 or through Facebook. You can also drop anything off at the ranch at 1017 McManus Road, Hephzibah, GA 30815.
The cause of the fire is still unknown. They say there was no power to the building and there was dry storage inside so they really have no idea what may have sparked it.