Woman, once hailed as hero, now charged in fire at area animal rescue
The London Free Press
A woman hailed as a hero for rushing into a burning barn at a Chatham-area animal sanctuary last year to save dogs, cats and livestock is now accused of deliberately setting the fire.
Christine Rettig, 30, of Windsor is charged with arson in a fire July 1, 2020, at Charlotte’s Freedom Farm on Brook Line, north of Chatham, that killed a miniature pony, a dog and four cats and caused about $300,000 in damage, Chatham-Kent police said.
Rettig is also charged with arson in a fire June 20 in trailer on the farm property that caused about $15,000 in damage.

“Thankfully, no humans or animals were injured as a result of this fire,” police said.

Rettig previously was celebrated as a hero by animal rescue farm founder Lauren Edwards following the devastating fire in July 2020.

At the time, Edwards said she was extremely grateful for Rettig’s quick actions after the farm caretaker opened the stall doors in the barn to free the surviving animals.

“She very bravely went in,” Edwards said. “She’s a hero.”

Edwards could not be reached for comment Monday. A person at the farm said no comment would be made by farm officials due to the police investigation.

Shortly after the July 2020 fire, Rettig told Postmedia she had discovered the blaze after hearing the braying of Bernard, the farm’s donkey.

After getting out of bed, she realized the dogs also were barking so she rushed outside, Rettig said at the time.

“Right away, I could see there was an orange glow coming from inside the barn,” she said.

Knowing she was the only one at the farm, Rettig said “the adrenaline kicked in,” so she grabbed a fire extinguisher, called 911 and headed into the barn to open up the stalls for the animals she had fed only a few hours earlier.

There wasn’t much smoke when she went in the barn, she said at the time, but there were a lot of flames. She said the fire quickly shot up the centre of the barn, engulfing the entire roof in flames.

“I was able to have enough time to run in and out four different times before it got to the point I couldn’t breathe anymore,” Rettig said at the time. “I just ran along and opened everything up and carried who I needed to carry.”

The animals that escaped the inferno included goats, sheep, dogs, two alpacas, the donkey and Norman, a six-month-old calf that she got to follow her out, Rettig said.

“I just did what came to me naturally,” she said. “My heart and soul is in this place, and so that’s just how I reacted.”

Rettig also is facing a charge of uttering threats related to a threatening letter found in the mailbox of Charlotte’s Freedom Farm on Oct. 2, 2020, police said.

Rettig was arrested Saturday, charged and released with a Nov. 16 court date.


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