PORT BURWELL, ONT. -- Nearly two weeks after a fire destroyed one of the buildings at Country Charm Animal Rescue near Port Burwell, Ont., Ed Nichols surveys the charred remains.

A lifetime of memories and equipment were destroyed along with his work shop in a fire on Jan. 15. 

"The smoke was really billowing out, I opened the door and went in," Ed explains. "And the whole back end of the shop and the ceiling were already in flames. There was so much smoke, and that’s all I could really see was the flames." 

He had gone in to see if he could put the fire out himself, and help the more than dozen feral cats that took refuge there in the winter escape, as his wife Carol was calling 911.

"It went totally like a black tornado, and the flames, and I’m on the phone with 911 and the lady says 'Ma’am, did your husband come back out?' I couldn’t see him," she says.

Just then, Ed came around the corner after opening the doors to allow any cats left inside to use the escape route from the blaze. The structure burned to the ground.

"They only have about $30,000 in insurance coverage, and the estimate right now is about $250,000 worth of damage," says Teri Thistle, a long-time family friend who has since started an online fundraiser to help replace the hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of machinery and tooling.

"This is their retirement - running the animal shelter - and of course over the years he collected all the tools that he needed. So any repairs or anything that needed to be done to the shelter, he had all the gear there that he could do it himself," says Thistle

Country Charm Animal Rescue has been operating for the last six years. The structure that burned down was the workshop, but also acted as a place for feral cats to come and stay warm at night.

Even two weeks later they return and walk among the charred remains. 

The loss of a lifelong collection of tools and machinery has left Ed devastated.

"Trying to replace and rebuild, I’m not even thinking about that right now. I just want to clean the mess up, see where I go from there." 

To help the shelter, you can visit their GoFundMe page to donate.