WATERTON, Alta. – Members of a southern Alberta ranching family are leaning on each other for support after a wildfire swept through the property just outside Waterton Lakes National Park.
Sierra Garner, 20, was awoken Monday night when she got a phone call saying her grandparents had been ordered to leave their home on the Rocking Heart Ranch. She was told everyone was safe, but that there had been a fire.
On Tuesday morning, she drove from her home in Lethbridge to take stock of the damage.
“There was not a lot left,” she said Wednesday.
Garner’s grandpa and nana, Jim and Angel, would regularly get help from their three children and seven grandchildren on the ranch. Garner says she would go every weekend.
When she drove onto the property, she would see a beautiful red log house. Now it’s gone, along with the feed yard, arena and barn.
The only thing left standing was a shop housing farm equipment and supplies that happened to be surrounded by gravel. 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,” she said. “Everything that they own and our stuff as well was in there, everything.”
Garner said her family is grateful everyone got out safely and none of the 100 or so horses on the ranch was hurt.
“Materials 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.”
She said her grandparents are holding up well, considering.
“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.”
The Alberta government says around 500 people are under evacuation order in the Waterton Lakes National Park townsite and parts of Cardston County, the Municipal District of Pincher Creek and the Blood Reserve, a First Nations community southwest of Lethbridge.
The wildfire, estimated at 330 square kilometres, has not spread into the national park’s townsite, but has destroyed its visitor centre and other buildings.
The Municipal District of Pincher Creek said Wednesday that the fire has destroyed five homes, five outbuildings, two large sheds and one bridge on private property. As well, fence lines, hay and power lines burned.
It said the weather looks favourable, with a forecast of rain and little wind.
— By Lauren Krugel in Calgary