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Evacuees return to assess damage to farms and ranches from southern Alberta wildfire
Published Wednesday, September 13, 2017 5:07PM MDT
Last Updated Wednesday, September 13, 2017 6:46PM MDT
Farmers and ranchers who were evacuated because of the wildfire in Waterton Lakes National Park were allowed back on their properties for a few hours on Wednesday to assess the damage and feed animals that were left behind.
The Kenow wildfire spread quickly once it made its way down the Akamina Valley and now covers an area of about 44,000 hectares.
The fire crept into Waterton Lakes National Park on Sunday night and soon spread to neighbouring communities.
Officials issued evacuation orders for several areas and an evacuation centre was set up in Pincher Creek for those who needed it.
Some of the evacuees were allowed back on their properties for a few hours on Wednesday.
Jim Garner returned to find his home gone and a new arena and barn destroyed.
He says he and his wife had just minutes to get out and they were not able to take anything with them.
“It was terrifying, I won’t deny it, it was terrifying and I'm not afraid of many things, but when you have a wall of fire coming at you like this and you got your wife, you’re getting the hell out of Dodge,” he said. “We just got in our vehicle and drove away.”
Garner also lost a truck, hundreds of bales of hay, fencing, corrals and about a dozen saddles but he did manage to get his livestock out.
He commends the actions of fire crews but says he thinks fire managers with Parks Canada did a poor job preventing the flames from spreading from the national park to private properties.
“This shouldn’t have happened, this is not on the provincial government, whether you like the provincial government or not, this one doesn’t rest on the provincial government, this belongs to the federal government right over there.”
He says he offered to build a sand berm for free just days before his home burned but couldn’t get approval.
“I had a plan where I could have put sand down in the national park, but we couldn't do it, we're not allowed," he said.
Garner does have insurance but says he is concerned for his neighbours who will also be facing property losses.
“Who's going to help, not myself, all these neighbors that got burned out here? Who's going to pay the bills? Most people have maybe two, three hundred thousand dollars insurance, when you have corrals burnt, fences burnt, who insures their corrals and their fences? You don’t so somebody has to help these people get back on their feet,” he said.
Garner is calling on the federal government to step up and help families deal with the devastation and he hopes they receive compensation for their losses.