‘Not a lot left,’ ranchers say
Family to rebuild ranch ravaged by wildfire
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 red log house, feed yard, barn and arena of the rocking Heart ranch were destroyed by the wildfire.