August 14th, 2018

Farms destroyed by wind-driven fires

By Tim Kalinowski on October 17, 2017.

A massive fire broke out northeast of Hilda and spread right to Burstall SK., Tuesday afternoon. Fire crews and water trucks were on scene throughout the area making sure roads were safe or close in proximity to the fire in case there was the need of back up. -- Southern Alberta News Photo by Justin Seward @MHNTimKal

At least four farms were confirmed lost in the fierce wildfire which burned through Hilda country last night. Driven by gale force winds the scale of the disaster is incalculable, said Cypress County deputy fire chief John McBain just before press time last night.

“I can’t even say how many farms have been lost, but we have yard sites on fire,” said McBain. “I drove down the one road and there was lots of burned-up cows, yards and a lot of peoples’ livelihoods were lost today.”

Hilda area farmer Andy Kirschenman was forced to evacuate his home to Medicine Hat with his family due the choking dust and ash produced by the fire. His yardsite was likely spared, but Kirschenman already knew his parents home is one of those lost prior to evacuating. Fortunately, they were still on holiday abroad when flames swept through.

“It was the fastest moving fire I have ever seen,” confirmed Kirschenman. “It didn’t matter what kind of stubble it was, we had some lower residue one, and the fire just tumbled. It made its own wind, and you could actually see it started rotating sometimes. It was almost like a tornado. It was unbelievable how fast it moved.”

Kirschenman said he knew of at least four other farms, longtime neighbours, who were equally devastated by the fire.

“There would be at least four or five farm houses gone, and lots of yards in the path. It’s a horrible day for fire.”

Kirschenman said the evacuation to Medicine Hat was also an experience he wouldn’t want to repeat anytime soon.

“There was so much smoke and dust it wasn’t safe to be there because you couldn’t see what was coming. We got to a place where we had to use the compasses on the trucks to even know which way we were going, because you couldn’t see anything in front of the vehicles.”

Cypress County Fire has added that the hamlet of Hilda has been spared from the blaze.

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