Fire completely destroyed the main house at New Canaan Ranch last week, but it did not destroy the spirit or mission of the ranch.
Renee Yates-Schrengost, daughter of the late Bro. Bill Yates, who started New Canaan Ranch on Highway 31 North in Giles County, declared after the fire that New Canaan’s mission “to serve the underprivileged, homeless and those struggling with addictions by providing a place for those who are ready for change while sharing the love and hope God offers to every person,” would continue in part due to the reaction from the community following the fire.
“We are going on,” she said. “We are going to keep doing the Lord’s work that He has for us to do here.
“We’ve had so many churches and individuals who have brought food and made meals and people coming out and helping with the plumbing, sending us a new stove and a couple of new refrigerators,” Yates-Schrengost added. “It’s a blessing to me because it makes me feel like the community loves this ministry and wants to see it go on. Even though it’s been a terrible thing that happened, the reaction of the community has been such a blessing. I’m glad we live here.”
Giles County Fire and Rescue arrived at New Canaan Ranch around noon Aug. 18 to find the main house fully engulfed in flames, according to GCFR Assistant Chief Ryan Cox.
Upon arrival GCFR volunteers established a water supply and made a call for mutual aid from other counties. Cox said Marshall County sent a tanker and a rehab unit to provide food and aid to volunteers. Giles County units from Rose Hill, Richland, Pulaski Station and a tanker from the City of Pulaski all responded to the scene along with the Marshall County units and units from Crossroads and New Prospect fire departments in Lawrence County, as well as a crew of four firefighters from Lawrenceburg City.
“We are appreciative of all the help from surrounding areas,” Cox said. “To respond like that in the middle of the day on the hottest day of the week was a great turnout. We needed a lot of water to extinguish the fire because of the size and age of the house.”
With no one inside and the fire already consuming the structure, Cox said the plan of attack was to keep it from spreading to other areas of the ranch.
“From the very beginning it was 100 percent a defensive attack — a surround and drown,” Cox said of the more than five-hour effort to extinguish the blaze. “I can’t stress how thankful we are. It was a hot day. We’re all one big family and help each other no matter what.”
Giles County Office of Emergency Management Director Jeremy Holley said the cause of the fire is undetermined due to the lack of evidence remaining.
Yates-Schrengost expressed her thanks for all of the first responders who came to fight the fire and provide aid.
“When they came there was no saving the building, it was too far gone and old,” she said. “It was really amazing to see them work. This whole place could have possibly burnt down. They saved the rest of the ranch. We are grateful.”
For now, Yates-Schrengost said the areas affected by the fire — kitchen, dining room, visitation areas, offices, staff housing and step down housing — will all be moved into her father’s old house, which has needed some electrical and plumbing work.
“I just feel blessed we had an area we could move into,” she said, noting that two men were living in the main house at the time of the fire. Neither man was injured, but both lost their belongings and clothing.
The number of men at the ranch had been downsized over the last few years to around 12, Yates-Schrengost said, adding that everything else will now need to downsize to fit into the space available.
Working with the local Friends of New Canaan Ranch group that manages the ranch’s insurance, pays the electric bills and raises money in the community for the ranch, Yates-Schrengost said the plan is “loosely” to hopefully build a structure like her father had always wanted that includes an open area in the middle surrounded by dorms around the outside.
“We are hoping that is what we’re working towards right now,” she said.
The Friends of New Canaan were scheduled to meet Tuesday evening to discuss how to proceed.
In the meantime, lots of items and equipment used at the ranch have been destroyed. The main needs at the ranch at this time include:
• Carpentry Tools like hammers, a sawsall and a skill saw.
• Mechanic Tools
• Lawn Equipment — All of the lawn equipment was on the back porch, gassed up and ready to go. This includes mowers, pole saw, weedeaters, shovels, a pressure washer and chainsaws.
• Office Supplies — A computer, printer, copy paper and file folders
• Garbage bags, cleaning supplies, toilet paper
• Plates, forks, knives and glasses
• Pantry shelving
Yates-Schrengost said because so much food has already been brought to the ranch there really is not much room left for more food and asked if anyone was looking to donate items please consider items from the list.
The support of the Giles County community remains an inspiration for the residents and staff at New Canaan Ranch, Yates-Schrengost said. Noting that sometimes the ministry can be lonely, she said the community’s response has been filled with God’s love.
“This morning we rest in the hope that our homes here are temporary, but our Heavenly home is eternal,” Yates-Schrengost said in a post on her Facebook page. “Thank you to each person that continues to work with us to be the hands of God and share His heart! Together, and with God’s help, we will get through this and grow stronger! Please keep us in your prayers.”