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Delta-Area Farmer Determined To Rebuild After Fire Wipes Out Poultry Barn

By | April 29, 2013

Brandy McLean walks through the rubble where the barn that burned down last week once stood, as one of the Large Black Hogs she's raising lounges nearby, left. Photo by Tim Ellis, KUAC - Fairbanks

Brandy McLean walks through the rubble where the barn that burned down last week once stood, as one of the Large Black Hogs she’s raising lounges nearby, left. Photo by Tim Ellis, KUAC – Fairbanks

A Delta Junction-area farmer is cleaning up from a barn fire that killed hundreds of chickens and other livestock that provided most of her livelihood.  Brandy McClean is seeking help in an effort to save her business.

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McLean was picking through the charred debris of what’s left of her barn last week, looking for anything that can be salvaged after the fire destroyed the structure on April 20th.

“Like I said, my laptop computer was in there,” she said, grabbing a blackened mass of melted plastic, “and that’s what we got left.”

The fire eliminated her main livelihood, 500 laying hens, and many ducks, geese and turkeys that she also kept in the 16-by-32-foot, two story structure. It also destroyed bags of feed, hardware, and pretty much every tool she has, except a thing or two like the steel head of a sledge hammer that she fished out of the ashes.

“This I think will,” she said, brushing ash from the underside of the heavy tool where the wooden handle burned off. “That’s a nice and heavy one. I think we’ll be able to salvage it.”

McLean built the barn with her own money, and some donated by her parents. She’s been raising chickens for about eight years now, and has operated the Triple McLean Farms, just outside of Delta, for about 12 years, with the help of mainly her two sons, 8-year-old Codey, and Morgen, age 13.

She’s a woman of slight stature, 37 years of age, and she’s obviously a tough and dedicated farmer who’s determined to stay in business. But the barn wasn’t insured, and she must build a new one. So she’s asking for help, in the form of donations – cash, tools, feed, all the stuff needed to run a farm.

McLean shows off a pair of channel-lock pliers, one of the few tools she's salvaged from the ashes, while her son, Codey, examines what's left of a tape measurer. McLean thinks the fire may have been sparked by a short-circuiting extension cord or a heat lamp that was knocked over by chickens. Photo by Tim Ellis, KUAC - Fairbanks

McLean shows off a pair of channel-lock pliers, one of the few tools she’s salvaged from the ashes, while her son, Codey, examines what’s left of a tape measurer. McLean thinks the fire may have been sparked by a short-circuiting extension cord or a heat lamp that was knocked over by chickens. Photo by Tim Ellis, KUAC – Fairbanks

“I hate asking for help. I don’t do it, you know?” she said. “But this is how I raise my kids, and I have to” ask for help. “It’s kind of a Catch-22, because I’ve got to rebuild in order to make the money to support my family. But I don’t have the money to rebuild and do it.”

As she spoke, three Large Black Hogs that she’s also raising grunted in the background. They were not in the barn when it burned.

McLean is raising the hogs organically, like the free-ranging hens lost in the fire. Despite the setback, she says she can’t stop to complain or recoup, because she’s got to keep working – especially now, the busiest time of year for a farmer.

“There’s always so much work to do,” she said. “Especially, with this late spring, y’know, getting to our crops planted, and getting the birds growing. And now we have more work to do to try and salvage and rebuild. And we will. We’re still in business. We want people to know we’re still in business.”

Denali State Bank has set up an account for the Triple McLean Farm, and there’s anonline fund-raising account for electronic donations.

Editor’s note: Brandy McLean may be contacted via e-mail at triplemcleanfarms@gmail.com or by phone at (907) 895-2291 or (907) 460-0236.

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