Tribute to Beiseker's history damaged in blaze
Published Saturday, July 28, 2012 5:26PM MDT
Last Updated Saturday, July 28, 2012 6:41PM MDT
One family east of Beiseker was hit especially hard by Friday’s storm.
When they heard a loud snap around suppertime yesterday, they knew lightning had hit close but they didn't know how much damage it was about to cause.
Hours after the fire started, Rockyview firefighters returned to the Grand ‘Ole West Villa Ranche putting out hot spots.
Larry Hixt and his family spent almost four decades building this historic village, and Friday night he watched five buildings burn to the ground. His wife Ruth was putting groceries away when she heard thunder.
“I looked out the window and thought it looked awful foggy, and looked out another window and thought ‘hmm, it's foggy that way, but not foggy that way’,” says Ruth Hixt. “I came outside and saw that there was a fire.”
Ruth called 911, but says fire crews didn't arrive until 55 minutes after the call. Hixt says neighbours helped out as best they could while they waited.
“Had they come within 20 minutes it probably would have only been one building gone instead of five.”
Fire crews were out of water Saturday morning and resorted to technology to make sure the debris pile had cooled and was fire free.
“It’s a thermal imaging camera,” explained Cpt. Dan Munz of Rockyview Fire. “It just shows us a thermal image of the fire pile and if there are any hot spots it will show up on the thermal imaging camera.”
The mayor of Beiseker, Ray Courtman, was sad to hear about the fire. In the early 1900's, the community was hit hard by fire and flooding, but current residents were able to experience some of the community’s history at the Grand ‘Ole West Villa Ranche.
“They lost a lot of their buildings,” says Courtman. “They’ve been really working to try and preserve our heritage and our artifacts and culture.”
“Most people come and say it's a labour of love and say it's better than heritage park because they know the sweat labour that's gone into it,” says Ruth Hixt. “It wasn't government funded in any way.”
The Hixt family says the Ranche will likely close to the public while they figure out how to clean up after the fire.
The Grand ‘Ole West Villa Ranche has been used in a number of Hollywood pictures including Brokeback Mountain and Open Range.
If you would like to help the family with the cleanup effort, please call (403)947-2143.