WildFire

Some of you may have heard about the devastating wild fire that started Thursday near Rock Creek.  It is with a heavy heart that I show some pictures we captured.  No amount of words can portray the sadness that is felt for our fellow ranchers and neighbours who lost so much.  I just wanted to give you some insight into the situation.

Thursday afternoon, around 2, we started getting calls that a fire had broke out.  We were working 4 km from our home.  Our good friend and neighbour left to check out the situation.  Minutes later he called my husband Doug and strongly suggested he get his water tank ready.  I quickly finished what I was doing, and headed for home.  This is what I saw when I came around the corner.

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Obviously this was very alarming.  We headed into Hulme Creek Road to check on our cows.  When we got into the area, we were put to work helping evacuate the acreages.

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The fire was very close to the houses and us at this time.  We were doubtful of how many of the homes were going to be left standing.

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Gates were opened and animals let free.

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The fire bombers and fire fighters did an amazing job of saving houses.  This house (you can just see the roof in the middle of the photo) was saved!

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At the time we were helping evacuate the area, I looked to the west and saw this.  Another forest fire had started in Washington State.  It crossed the border into Canada and was thankfully put out that night/next day.

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There were 3 large Electra’s fire bombing the area.  At this point we retreated back to our neighbours house.  Electricity was out.  My husband and our neighbour took the tractors over to make a break around this house in danger.  They continued to fight the fire until midnight.

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These folks and my husbands 2nd cousins all stayed at our house for the weekend.  This was the house the guys made a fire break around Thursday night.

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As the guys fought and made the break, my friend and I and our children watched the fire.  This was about 1 mile and a 1/2 from our ranch.

Since the snow melted in February, we have only had 3/4 inch of rain.  It was very dry and that Thursday the temperature was +39 degrees celsius with only 8% humidity, with a strong hot wind blowing.  The fire moved a kilometre a minute burning north up a valley.  Thankfully nobody was killed in the fire.  It was very traumatic for us and we were just on the edge.  Many peoples homes and buildings and belongings were burnt.

The next morning we got a call that there was a lightning strike on our private land, so we raced up there to put 2 small fires out.

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See the tree split by lightning.

 

 

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The next day the sky was eerie.  All the highways around us were closed.  It was strangely quiet.  Phone lines, power and cellular service were all down.  That being said, the professionals restoring everything worked night and day to bring back power etc.

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Sunday, highway 3 opened.  This is heading down to Rock Creek.  This first picture is where the fire started.

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There are miles of destroyed fence, lost timber, lost pasture land.  Our prayers continue to be with all those still fighting the fire and to those who have lost so much.

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I just took these 2 pictures to show how smokey the area still is.  The fire is reportably 25% contained, with areas of the forest still burning and smouldering.

~Erika Fossen~

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Agriculture Needs Water

Erika Fossen and I have blogged several times about irrigation and we like to refer to it as irritation. Yes, it is a pain in the butt to move irrigation everyday to make sure we get over our entire field with water, however right now I would do anything to have that problem.
Last Friday we got hand delivered a letter saying that there were water restriction starting that night at midnight. We are restricted to water from 6pm to 6am, which was fine we were sort of prepared for this because we had such a mild winter and there was no snowpack in the mountains and the river has been extremely low all year coupled with extreme heat. We have been watering about 30% less than usual just to try and conserve water. However, that wasn’t all they told me… Here’s the kicker they said we are restricted until August 11 and then after that it is a full shut off. That means in an area that is considered semi desert and even though we have a water license we are not going to be allowed to pump until September 30, which is when our water license says we need to be done pumping for the year anyways. This was absolutely devastating news. Without water all our crops will die and we will not have enough feed to feed our cows during the winter months. My husband brother and I decided we should start cutting what is ready of our second cut of growth on our fields, so we could get it off and get the water back on while we still had the ability to water. So that is how we spent our long weekend working until about midnight each night trying to get as much feed off the fields and then move irrigation so when 6pm rolled around we could start the pumps and have water.
I am so frustrated with this government decision because it severely affect our ranch especially when there was no consultation with the people who have water licenses to the river, which should mean we have rights to the water. In addition, I believer that they should have complied with The First in Time First in Right policy which means those with the oldest water license have the most rights, so should be able to pump the longest. I also feel there should be some preference for those who are actually making a living from agriculture and not just hobby farmers that have 20 acres and sell a bit of hay on the side to supplement their alternate income. This is our income if we don’t have enough feed that severely affects our business.
Moreover, hay is super expensive this year, so having to buy hay will be a huge cost. I asked the person who delivered the letter if there would be compensation for loss of forage and he said he didn’t know.
A main reason for the shut off they say is for the fish, which I completely understand we are not out to hurt another commodity, however it feels like there is no common sense being applied in this decision. This year the river has been so low and warm since June it seems like damage to the fish probably is already done and in addition in the past 20 years the amount of fish that come up to river has diminished greatly. I was speaking to somebody who works for the fisheries and yesterday they counted fish in the river and in a 8 km span they counted 4 fish!!! FOUR FISH!!! Is that really enough to justify completely devastating our crops? We are reasonable people who care about the environment. We have been voluntarily pumping 30% less water all year because we could tell the water was low, but not to be able to compromise is frustrating. We think a great compromise would be allowing us to keep pumping, but only at night. Another frustrating piece of the puzzle is that the same weekend August long weekend Merritt was host to a music festival, Rockin River Music Festival and the same river that we have water rights to flows through the festival ground and a main attraction during the day is for the thousands of attendees to pull up their lawn chairs in the river. Please explain to me how this doesn’t affect the fish, the amount of people trampling fish, fish eggs, leaving garbage and I’m sure bodily excretion. Moreover, the same river that flows through our ranch flows through our range and hundreds of quaders tear up the grasslands and that go through the river all summer long. How are the quads not affecting the fish and fish eggs when they drive through the river? My dad had a meeting with the man who delivered us the letter and asked him these questions and he didn’t have an answer just that he was the messenger and gave the impression he really didn’t care. That is so frustrating he probably went on to have a great relaxing long weekend after he delivered us the bombshell of a letter. I really feel there needs to be a shift in society to put value back on agriculture. We are the people producing YOUR food. Isn’t that important? More so than recreation and music festivals? Before it gets to you in pretty cellophane packages at the grocery store it goes through a process and we are a very important part of that process. Some consultation and negotiations would have been very appreciated especially when the city of Merritt who is down stream from us has no restrictions and the golf course is still being watered, car washes being used, cement plants functioning all of which use vast amounts of water. Are these things what we value more than food?

Here are our fields looking green and bountiful because of irrigation. We are very scared what they are going to look like without our ability to water them.

Here are our fields looking green and bountiful because of irrigation. We are very scared what they are going to look like without our ability to water them.


Recreation quads going through the river on our range.

Recreation quads going through the river on our range.


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