Communities rally around producers in wildfires’ wake

James Hargrave (second from right) in September 2016 with provincial Agriculture Minister Oneil Carlier, Medicine Hat MLA Bob Wanner and Environment Minister Shannon Phillips. (

Ranchers, farmers and rural residents who suffered losses, injuries and more in recent wildfires in southeastern Alberta and southwestern Saskatchewan are seeing support from neighbours and beyond.

Alongside a number of online campaigns launched in support of affected farmers and families, the Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association on Monday launched a wildfire relief fund to help affected ranchers.

Tens of thousands of acres were burned and an estimated $1 million in livestock died or had to be euthanized in the wake of last week’s fires, propelled by strong winds and dry conditions, the SSGA said.

“Some producers have lost over half their herds,” SSGA president Shane Jahnke said in a release.

“The drought conditions that fuelled the fires had already caused feed shortages… Now producers need to buy winter feed to replace the grass and the bales they lost to the fires.

“We’re collecting donations of cash, hay, feed, trucking — whatever people can offer… The fires destroyed animals, buildings, fields, feed and everything else in their way. Miles of fencing were destroyed. With winter coming, there’s a lot of people who need help.”

Donors can support the SSGA fund through its website or by calling 306-757-8523. Producers may also call that number to report what help they need, or download forms at the site to either request help or nominate a producer for support. SSGA membership is not required to be eligible for support.

Campaigns have also been set up on the crowdfunding website GoFundMe for several affected producers and their families, including:

A campaign to assist the family of James Hargrave, a Walsh, Alta. rancher who died in a vehicle crash while volunteering in firefighting efforts on the Saskatchewan side of the border. As of Tuesday evening, that campaign had surpassed its $50,000 goal with over $71,400 raised.

A campaign to assist Ron and Evan Wedrick and their families. The father and son were taking part in firefighting efforts near Tompkins, Sask. and both are now hospitalized in Calgary with severe burns. That campaign, which set a $5,000 goal, has so far raised over $103,000 in pledges.

A campaign to help Joce and Laurry Orr, who farm west of Lethbridge and lost over 600 round hay bales’ worth of winter feed to wildfire. That campaign set a goal of $20,000 and has so far raised over $13,400.

A campaign for the Brown family of Carseland, Alta., who lost four of their five dogs when their home burned in last week’s fires. That campaign, seeking $10,000, has so far raised almost $9,700. –– Network

PODCAST: Jeremy Simes of the Western Producer discusses the havoc wreaked by last week’s windstorms on the Oct. 26 episode of Between The Rows. Listen to the podcast HERE.


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