Lutz fam­ily grate­ful for Walsh fire de­part­ment

Prairie Post (East Edition) - - NEWS - By Jamie Rieger [email protected]­

Al­berta Forestry fire­fight­ers were fin­ished their work build­ing a perime­ter fire guard at the site of the Graburn fire and de­mo­bi­lized on Tues­day, Aug. 6, ac­cord­ing to a state­ment re­leased by Cy­press County. Crews had been work­ing with a wa­ter de­liv­ery sys­tem us­ing the nearby creek, agri­cul­ture pumps, hand tools, chain­saws, sprin­klers, and hose lines.

Mon­i­tor­ing and pa­trols will con­tinue and will be co­or­di­nated through Walsh vol­un­teer fire chief Jack Zi­ef­fle. Th­ese ef­forts will in­clude landown­ers and vol­un­teers us­ing hand­held ther­mal imag­ing cam­eras in the evenings to de­tect any re­main­ing hot spots.

In ad­di­tion, Cy­press County has is­sued a county-wide fire ban and added more re­sources to as­sist those al­ready in place.

For Cyndy and Dar­ren Lutz, whose prop­erty has sus­tained fire dam­age, the work will con­tinue in clean­ing up and build­ing fences af­ter a week of watch­ing their prop­erty fol­low­ing a fire that started on July 28. They, along with vol­un­teers, kept 24 hour vigil over their prop­erty, in case the fire started flaring up again.

Heli Source Ltd. con­ducted fly­overs of the area us­ing ther­mal imag­ing and found 480 hot spots and the fire con­tin­ued to burn un­der­ground within the veg­e­ta­tion root sys­tems.

De­spite the vig­i­lance of fire crews and vol­un­teers, the Graburn fire erupted once again.

“We had been on night watch the night be­fore be­cause of the pre­vi­ous fire. There were seven or eight of us out there. We came home and went to bed and an­other group came to watch for hot spots. We got up about noon and there was a lot of smoke, so we got our ve­hi­cles and stuff out of there. There was so much smoke you couldn’t see,” said Cyndy. “There was a stream of fire trucks go­ing past our place and three of the county trucks started foam­ing our place.”

The Lutz have noth­ing but praise for the vol­un­teer fire­fight­ers who saved their home and build­ings from the blaze.

“Our Walsh fire de­part­ment came and have had peo­ple stay over­top of the house. I can’t say enough about Jack Zi­ef­fle and his crew at the Walsh fire de­part­ment. He and his guys have worked so hard. A cou­ple of nights ago, they were out there from 11 pm to 4 am us­ing ther­mal imag­ing. Jack and his guys went in be­hind and dug out roots and be­low the grass where things were burn­ing. The ground was so hot and it was glow­ing back there,” she said.

The fol­low­ing day, as the Lute’s were re­ly­ing on vol­un­teers to come out and help keep watch for hot spots, a train de­railed west of Irvine, shut­ting down the Tran­sCanada High­way for sev­eral hours.

“The night of the de­rail­ment, we had peo­ple from Medicine Hat who were com­ing out to help us, but we told them to stay home,” she said.

Two teams from Al­berta Agri­cul­ture and Forestry, one from Blair­more and the other from St. Al­bert, had been on scene un­til Aug. 6 when the fire was deemed ex­tin­guished. Lo­cal fire of­fi­cials, as well as landown­ers and vol­un­teers will con­tinue to mon­i­tor for hot spots.

The Lutz’s lost a con­sid­er­able amount of fenc­ing and have had to re­lo­cate their cat­tle un­til new fences can be built.

“Our cat­tle were wan­der­ing be­cause of the fences be­ing gone,” said Lutz, adding that some of the cat­tle have been moved to an­other field and oth­ers have been taken to a neigh­bour’s field.

”Our calv­ing field got it the worst, so that will im­pact us and in our back fields, it will be two or three years be­fore we can have cat­tle there again,” she added.

Cyndy also said that dam­age to small trees and bushes has made ar­eas dan­ger­ous.

“All of the small trees, the wil­lows, poplars, and as­pens, and the chokecherr­y and saskatoon bushes where they burned from the top, there is now six-12 inches of a spear. If you fall, you’ll get gouged. It’s dan­ger­ous,” she said.

They are con­tin­u­ing with cleanup and work­ing on putting crews to­gether for build­ing fences, but it will be some time be­fore their prop­erty re­turns to nor­mal.

Irvine train de­rail­ment up­date

As of Aug. 6, CP Rail was con­tin­u­ing to work at clean­ing up the site where a train de­railed west of Irvine on Aug. 2. Cy­press County en­cour­aged res­i­dents im­pacted by the de­rail­ment to con­tact the CP Rail Claim co­or­di­na­tor at 403-319-6364 or on­line at claim­s_­di­vi­sion-cal­[email protected]

Pho­tos con­trib­uted by Cyndy Lutz

This aerial photo shows how close the fire came to burn­ing struc­tures at the Lutz farm. Cyndy Lutz said the Walsh vol­un­teer fire de­part­ment did an ex­cel­lent job in keep­ing the fire away from the build­ings. The photo also shows the vast ground the fire cov­ered.

Smoke from the nearby fire bil­lows around the Lutz farm south of Walsh.

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