In this Sunday, Aug. 12, 2018 file photo provided by the National Park Service, people walk along the shore near Lake McDonald Lodge as the Howe Ridge Fire burns in Glacier National Park, Mont. Wildfires that have kept portions of Glacier National Park closed for two weeks are scrambling visitors’ plans and prompting some to cancel their trips. Much of Glacier’s famous Going-to-the-Sun-Road has been closed since August 12 due to a fire that’s burned more than 19 square miles (50 square kilometers). (National Park Service via AP, File)

‘We will rise from those ashes:’ Ranch still rebuilding two years after wildfire

Wildfire raged into Waterton Lakes National Park in southeastern Alberta two years ago

Melody Garner-Skiba and her family have had some tough conversations since a wildfire raged into Waterton Lakes National Park in southeastern Alberta two years ago, spread into nearby grassland and destroyed their horse-breeding ranch.

“It’s definitely taken a toll on our family, but we’re strong and we’re perservering,” said Garner-Skiba, who lived at the Rocking Heart Ranch just outside Waterton with her husband before the fire.

“It’s been the most challenging and demanding and probably stressful years that we’ve ever faced on our ranch.”

None of the 100 horses on the ranch was hurt, but the fire destroyed nearly everything else, including priceless family keepsakes and hunting trophies belonging to her father, former Saskatchewan politician Jim Garner.

“I never expected to see a site that looked like a war zone and how catastrophic it was,” Garner-Skiba recalled. ”Those images of the smouldering ashes will forever be implanted in our brains.”

The family has had some frank discussions about the ranch’s future, and what they can and can’t afford to rebuild. Garner-Skiba figures that their insurance payout came in $1 million short of what’s needed to duplicate what was there before, so they are going to do without replacing the arena.

Garner and his wife, Angel, who are in their 70s, lived in a house on the ranch full time, and their daughter and son-in-law split their time between the ranch and nearby Coaldale.

Two years later, the elder Garners are living apart on the property — he’s in a tiny apartment above a workshop that didn’t burn and she’s in a job shack in a gravel pit. They’re hoping to break ground on a new house this fall.

When they’re at the ranch on weekends, Garner-Skiba and her husband, Doug, stay in a holiday trailer.

The ranch has been able to operate close to normal since the spring, with the same number of horses as before. New fencing was 60 per cent up as of mid-August.

Garner-Skiba said she’s grateful to “shining stars” in the agriculture community, who helped by raising money and donating hay.

She said her family will not be defined by the devastating fire of September 2017.

“This will not beat us,” she said.

“We will rise from those ashes and be stronger and build a better, bigger ranch than we had before.”

Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

47 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday in Alberta, still 620 active cases

3 active COVID-19 cases remain in Red Deer

PHOTOS: After a two-year hiatus, the Castor & District Museum is open for business

The hours are Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays from 2 until 4 p.m for the duration of summer

COVID-19: Central zone at four active

Alberta confirms 130 cases Monday

Albertans get an extra free order of COVID-19 masks

Packages will be available July 13 at fast food restaurants

Church services set to resume in Castor amidst the pandemic

The province is moving through the phases of reopening

QUIZ: A celebration of dogs

These are the dog days of summer. How much do you know about dogs?

Charges dropped against N.S. woman injured during arrest in racial profiling case

Charges dropped against N.S. woman injured during arrest in racial profiling case

Conservative stalwart Scott Reid backing newcomer Leslyn Lewis for leadership

Conservative stalwart Scott Reid backing newcomer Leslyn Lewis for leadership

Planned class-action lawsuit alleges illegal strip-searches of federal prisoners

Planned class-action lawsuit alleges illegal strip-searches of federal prisoners

Two protesters get conditional discharge after Alberta turkey farm demonstration

Two protesters get conditional discharge after Alberta turkey farm demonstration

Daisies bring a sunny look to the garden

Daisies bring a sunny look to the garden

IIHF encouraged by NHL’s potential return to Olympics in ‘22

IIHF encouraged by NHL’s potential return to Olympics in ‘22

Raptors coach Nick Nurse knows attention to family will be key for players

Raptors coach Nick Nurse knows attention to family will be key for players

NFL, NFLPA still haven’t resolved all protocol for camps

NFL, NFLPA still haven’t resolved all protocol for camps

Most Read