Bella and one of the chickens
  • Bella and one of the chickens
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At about 11:30 p.m. on January 8th, Layla, an 11-year-old girl who lives in Eucalyptus Hills (a couple miles northeast of Lakeside), smelled smoke and saw a yellow reflection on her window. She ran into her mom and stepdad’s room, yelling, “James, a fire!”

The fire originated in Bella's shed

James woke up, and then Layla bolted to the other room to wake up her 15-year-old sister, Nevaeh.

“By this time I was crying,” said Melinda, the girls’ mom. “The house where Bella our goat was was [burning] with 15-foot flames.” Melinda called the fire department. Their animal shed stood only about 15 feet away from the house.

“My husband ran down without getting dressed, just in boxer shorts,” Melinda said, “[then] grabbed a water hose immediately and started watering down from inside the gate. Nevaeh ran the opposite direction outside the gate and grabbed the other garden hose and started watering the flames.”

It took James and Nevaeh about 20 minutes to extinguish the fire; about the same time, the fire department showed up. “The fire department poured 500 pounds of water on the fire [site],” Melinda said. “They made sure it was completely out.”

After the smoke cleared, the parents broke the news that Bella, their two chickens, and a rooster named Jerry did not survive.

Nevaeh and Bella

“Bella was a year and four months old and was being raised [by Nevaeh] to be sold at the [Eastern San Diego County] Junior Fair 2017,” Melinda said, “but we just couldn’t, so we decided to show her every year and keep her as a family member.”

Nevaeh has been part of the Future Farmers of America at her school for a year and a half. “She loves animals and she swears they speak to her,” Melinda said. The FFA is an intracurricular student organization for those interested in agriculture and leadership, according to their website.

The whole family is devastated, but especially Nevaeh. “She is not ready,” Melinda said. “She doesn’t want to look at the area [where their animals once lived]. When we would come home we would be greeted with Bella’s welcoming voice and the one sweet chicken always [standing] on Bella’s back.”

The cause of the fire was an electrical short in the heat lamp in Bella’s shed.

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