LETHBRIDGE – Owners of the Rocking Heart Ranch are taking stock of what they have, after a fire wiped out most of their operation Monday night (Sept 11).
The Garner family had been keeping close tabs on the Kenow fire as it moved into Waterton Lakes National Park, which neighbours their property, and even had an evacuation plan in place for their horses.
What developed however, caught them off guard, leaving them with little time to react.
“Last night, all of a sudden there was a second fire show up just outside of the ranch, like right across the river on our neighbour’s property,” said Marc Garner. “We don't know where it came from – I'm sure there's some questions that are going to be asked – but it just showed up all of a sudden.”
Garner, who lives just outside of Lethbridge, explained that his father, Jim, was fortunate as he saw the flames just as he was returning to the ranch.
“To make a long story short, they had about a 20-minute evacuation. They were told to get out and they got out just as the flames were kind of coming up across the Waterton River onto the Cardston County side,” Garner stated.
The family was cleared to return to the ranch Tuesday morning (Sept. 12), and came in with concerns of what they might find.
“We weren't sure what to expect, quite frankly. I was expecting some horses that were not in good shape, perhaps some dead ones,” said Garner. “It was a scene out of a movie, when you look at the vast expanse of burnt territory.”
What they found was that the house, barn, riding arena and a feed yard had all burned to the ground, while the shop survived, being surrounded by gravel.
There was also another discovery that lifted the entire family up.
“We were very fortunate, in that our entire horse heard actually came through unscathed, even though we're still not sure how, but they did,” Garner said. “And so, all 90 to 100 horses are accounted for and no injuries.”
Garner continued on, pointing out that despite the losses, this won’t be the end of the Rocking Heart Ranch.
“At the end of the day, all the people were OK and it won't slow us down a bit. We're going to rebuild, and carry on with our colt starting challenge,” said Garner, referring to an event they have coming up on Saturday in Fort Macleod.
“I just want to thank all the boots on the ground, the men and women who are fighting the fire. They're putting their heart and soul into protecting southwestern Alberta,” said Garner, with a swell of emotion in his voice.
“Darn proud to be Canadian today.”
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