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HomeWorld NewsCanada newsFarmers rush to save livestock as wildfires rip through Alberta

Farmers rush to save livestock as wildfires rip through Alberta

With wildfires forcing thousands of Albertans to flee their homes, farmers are rushing to save their animals. 

Carol Swap, who lives north of Drayton Valley in Brazeau County, said fires were surrounding her cattle farm on three sides. 

While Swap wasn’t under an evacuation order, she was planning to relocate more than 100 cattle from her property if the fires came closer. 

“It’s a little bit nerve-wracking because you can’t really get a good game plan put together,” said Swap on Friday. 

“You just gotta wait and see what happens.” 

Swap said her daughter and husband are staying with her after being evacuated from Drayton Valley. 

All 7,200 residents of Drayton Valley were ordered to evacuate the town late Thursday because of an out-of-control wildfire.

Swap said her family is staying calm and watching closely for further alerts from the province or Brazeau County. 

“Until it’s obvious we have to go, I’m not going to worry about it because if I worry about it, I’ll make myself sick,” she said. 

The Yellowhead Agricultural Society is providing a safe haven for farmers who have been forced out of their homes and need somewhere to house their animals.
The Yellowhead Agricultural Society is providing a safe haven for farmers who have been forced out of their homes and need somewhere to house their animals. (Submitted by Michaela Shrode)

Agricultural societies offer refuge to evacuees

Residents of Evansburg, Wildwood, Lobstick, and Hansonville in the east part of Yellowhead County in west-central Alberta were evacuated from their homes on Thursday. 

Michaela Shrode, a director with the Yellowhead Agricultural Society, has been helping evacuees resettle their animals on the agricultural grounds. They have dozens of cattle and horses staying in their pens and stalls. 

Shrode said the society is preparing to move the animals they’re housing if fires force them to abandon the centre just outside Edson.

“We’re hoping not, but we don’t really know, right?” She said, “We kind of have to be ready for whatever.” 

The society has room to house more animals, but supplies are a concern, according to Shrode.

“We have space, wee just need feed,” she said. “The concern is like people are losing their places, they’re also losing their feed for their animals.”

On Friday night, there nearby town of Edson was issued an evacuation order. Shrode told CBC that the society did not yet need to evacuate, but her home was in the evacuation zone. 

Other agricultural societies are helping people evacuate their animals. The High Level, Mayerthorpe and Darwell & District Agricultural Society have all publicly advertised spaces for farmers who need help placing their livestock. 

“We do have sheep pens and stalls in our ag barn. We have some outdoor arenas, some outdoor pens,” said Chantelle Lalonde, president of the Darwell & District Agricultural Society.

Lalonde said that one of the society’s members also gave an evacuated family a trailer to sleep in.

Majority of fires are human-caused

While fires burn kilometres away from her property, cattle farmer Carol Swamp wants people to be more careful .

Most wildfires burning right now are human-caused, according to Alberta Wildfire. 

“Everyone needs to be extremely careful and watch what you’re doing,” she said.

“It’s not just your life that you’re looking out for. It’s everybody else.”

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