‘Not a lot left’

RANCH NEAR WATERTON RAV­AGED BY SOUTH­ERN AL­BERTA WILD­FIRE

Lethbridge Herald - - FRONT PAGE - Lau­ren Krugel THE CANA­DIAN PRESS — WATERTON

Mem­bers of a south­ern Al­berta ranch­ing fam­ily say they will re­build af­ter a wild­fire swept through their prop­erty just out­side Waterton Lakes Na­tional Park.

“We’ll get ev­ery­thing back up and run­ning as soon as we pos­si­bly can and we’ll con­tinue to ranch in that area for many more gen­er­a­tions,” said Melody Garner-Sk­iba, who has con­sid­ered the Rock­ing Heart Ranch home since she was nine years old.

Her fa­ther, for­mer Saskatchewan politi­cian Jim Garner, and his wife An­gel bought the horse ranch more than three decades ago.

The red log house, feed yard, barn and arena were de­stroyed. The only thing left stand­ing is a shop hous­ing farm equip­ment and sup­plies that hap­pened to be sur­rounded by gravel.

Garner-Sk­iba said the fam­ily has de­cided that ev­ery­thing will be re­built.

“This has typ­i­cally al­ways been our motto: when you knock a Garner down, we just come back up swing­ing a lit­tle harder.”

A grass fire ig­nited just out­side the north part of the park on Mon­day night, which au­thor­i­ties have said may have been sparked by a blow­ing em­ber from the Kenow wild­fire burn­ing to the south­west.

Garner-Sk­iba said just min­utes af­ter her fa­ther told her the fire was 20 kilo­me­tres away and ev­ery­thing was fine, he called back to say he was ordered to leave im­me­di­ately.

“What hap­pened? How did this come on so quickly?” Garner-Sk­iba re­called won­der­ing.

Her niece, Sierra Garner, said she was awo­ken Mon­day night with news her grandpa and nana were un­der an evac­u­a­tion or­der.

The two women and some other fam­ily mem­bers were able to travel from Leth­bridge to check on the ranch Tues­day morn­ing.

“There was not a lot left,” Garner, 20, said Wed­nes­day.

Jim and An­gel’s chil­dren and grand­chil­dren reg­u­larly help out on the ranch in their spare time.

Trea­sured fam­ily keep­sakes in­side the house were de­stroyed.

“We have this old cow­boy hat that was my great-great grandpa’s. That’s burned down,” said Garner.

Garner-Sk­iba added that walls of the house were lined with fam­ily pho­tos dat­ing back more than a cen­tury and with Jim’s hunt­ing tro­phies.

The pair said the fam­ily is grate­ful ev­ery­one got out safely and none of the 100 or so horses on the ranch was hurt.

“We went back in on Tues­day ex­pect­ing to see ac­tu­ally corpses of horses and we’d ac­tu­ally taken our guns be­cause we thought we would have to put some an­i­mals down be­cause they were caught in the fire,” Garner-Sk­iba said.

Her niece said ma­te­rial items can be re­placed.

“We’ll get a new house, we’ll get a new barn, arena,” she said.

“We’ll re­build ev­ery­thing. But if we would have lost any lives, that would have been a dif­fer­ent story, and thank gosh we didn’t.”

Garner said her grand­par­ents are hold­ing up well.

“I’ve got very strong grand­par­ents,” she said. “They’re do­ing OK. With­out our fam­ily here, we wouldn’t be as calm and col­lected as we are be­cause we all sup­port each other.”

Cana­dian Press/Sierra Garner photo

Fire dam­age to the Rock­ing Heart Ranch just out­side Waterton Lakes Na­tional Park is shown in a handout photo. With a fore­cast call­ing for rain for the next few days, crews fight­ing a wild­fire in Waterton Lakes Na­tional Park and the sur­round­ing area in south­ern Al­berta have some rea­son for op­ti­mism.

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