How terrible it must be to be told to sit wait when you see fire coming your way or tearing across your land.
In tinder-dry Western Canada over the last few weeks, that’s exactly what some farmers have been told. But, of course, they can’t obey. They can’t not pitch in. They will do everything they can to save whatever they can.
Ranchers, dairy, poultry, beef farmers are facing life-changing fire situations. Thankfully, their neighbours are behind them lending gas and trucks or providing food and other help.
When you own land, it’s your livelihood. You cannot be expected to sit idly by and watch as fire ignites your present and your future. Too often, when a barn catches fire, farmers are told to stay away and let firefighters do their jobs. Of course, firefighters are courageous people that do run toward burning buildings for a living. But they are not always trained for burning barns where live animals are in.
They should listen and enlist farmers’ advice and help.
Last December, a barn caught fire near our farm. As word spread, neighbours went to help. First on the scene was a farmer who had been in the barn two days prior. He sent someone to keep firefighters busy as they arrived on scene, so he could sneak through the barn’s side door. Once inside, he saw that the fire was still quite small and had not yet reached the animals. He knew he could open a set of nearby doors without danger, so he did. This gave the animals fresh air, saving them from suffocating and preventing them from contracting smoke-induced pulmonary infections. This saved lives.
When went outside, the firefighters were upset. They scolded him, telling him what he did was dangerous. He asked them what their plan was. Would they have known the barn’s layout, and could they have saved the animals as quickly as he did? The volunteer firefighters agreed they had no idea what the inside of the barn looked like, and that they would have tried to extinguish the fire from a different angle. He made them realize that because he knew the inside of the barn and had basic fire training, he did what needed to be done and saved most of the animals’ lives. Ultimately, fewer than a hundred heifers had to be put down and most of the barn owner’s milking herd was saved.
Since that fire there are discussions between firefighters and farmers locally. Most farmers have basic fire expertise, having taken a fire extinguishing course. Some even are, or have been, volunteer firefighters. No other fires have happened since then. Thank God. But next time we face a burning barn, neighbours and firefighters will likely all work together better than ever before.
I can understand why ranchers and farmers and others in Western Canada would defy evacuation orders. If they leave, no one will save their land, their barn, their animals, their livelihoods. Obviously, there are not enough trained professionals to save all animals and all farms. There are too many fires from BC to Saskatchewan and as far north as Hay River, NWT. The people who choose to try to save their own properties should be allowed to do so. They deserve our understanding and compassion. I’m sure most if not all of them would sign a document stating they are doing what they need to do, at their own risk. They may save lives and insurance payouts.
In Alberta, the fire drama is happening during a provincial electoral campaign….
Where is the Premier that advocated for liberty and personal freedoms during the pandemic? Why aren’t ranchers and farmers authorized to do whatever they can to save their future?
Where is she? Campaigning in urban areas?
I, for one, support you ranchers and farmers who are taking matters in your own hands and try to save as much as you can of your livelihood.
In the end, as the last few weeks have shown, no one is going to have your back like you and those closest to you. They know what’s at stake. And often, they’re best placed to provide real and effective help.
A consistent consumer of Canadian products (food, clothing, furniture, etc.), Isabelle Bouchard is a city girl now living in the countryside on a dairy and crop farm in Lac Saint-Jean, Québec.
Self-employed since 2019, she was previously employed by great Canadian companies and the Government of Canada. Consult her LinkedIn profile for details.
Isabelle is excited to participate with friends in this great project. Both Canadian producers and products need the support and love of Canadians to shine and prosper. There are so many people who denigrate our producers and our Canadian products that she feels it is almost a duty to participate in C3FC.