‘Not a lot left,’ ranch­ers say

Fam­ily to re­build ranch rav­aged by wild­fire

Metro Canada (Edmonton) - - Edmonton -

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.

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

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.

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.’’

The cana­dian press

the red log house, feed yard, barn and arena of the rock­ing Heart ranch were de­stroyed by the wild­fire.

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