Friday, 02 February 2018 07:08

Hilda Fire Recovery Committee not happy with Alta. provincial gov’t response; gets help from Sask. Stock Growers Association

Written by  Jamie Rieger
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Determining the extent and putting a dollar value on the losses from the October 17 Hilda wildfires has been a focus for the Hilda Fire Recovery Committee as they continue working with their municipalities in lobbying the provincial government and organizations in providing support to those who were impacted.

"Our fire recovery committee had impacted people fill out draft forms and that's how we collected this data," said Ken Kundert, a Hilda area farmer.
Information gathered by the Hilda Fire Recovery Committee on uninsured losses from the wildfire for the Hilda community area as well as the surrounding areas in Sask. includes:
– Approximately 65 parties affected;
– Fire went through at least 16 yards that were entirely destroyed in some and buildings in others;
– A total of 580 animals went through the fire (144 in Alberta; 436 in Sask.);
– A total of 248 miles of fence was destroyed (101 in Alberta; 147 in Sask.);
– Approximately 17,392 acres of pasture was affected (Alberta - 7,081 acres; Sask. - 10,311 acres)
– Approximately 25,537 acres of cultivated land was affected (12,120 in Alberta; 13,417 in Sask.). Acres affected- approximately 42,929 plus more not yet calculated.
• Cows - 315 - $1,522,500;
• Calves - 256 - $369,400;
• Bulls - 8 - $49,000;
• Horses - 1 - $1,500;
• Fences - 248 miles - $1,683,738;
• Hay loss - 1,768 tonnes - $173,735;
• Grains and grain bins - $513,367;
• Pasture acres affected - 17,392 acres - $4,348,000;
• Cultivated acres affected - 25,537 acres - $19,152,750;
• Dugouts to be cleaned out - 36 - $72,000.
• Custom fieldwork - $161,450;
• Other losses - $1,089,708;
Total estimate: $29,147,147.
* (Many losses were not included as values were not determined).
This is information that has been used in applying to the provincial government for financial support.
For Kundert, and many others, the response thus far, has not even been a drop in the bucket in helping.
"Their response was a $25,000 loan that is only interest-free for the first two years. That is quite inadequate considering the extent of the damage," said Kundert, adding that he is hoping the powers that be in Edmonton will at least listen to the people in the Hilda area to get an understanding of how extensive the damage was.
"We're hoping to persuade our Ministers in Edmonton to allow us some of their precious time to let them hear about the situation we have."
Kundert noted that while he has spoken with representatives from Cypress County, there has been little direction coming from the municipality.
"We talked to the county (Cypress County) and we can't seem to get an answer there. Nobody seems to know what's going on," said Kundert. "It's quite disheartening and disappointing because it seems everybody is just carrying on and have forgotten about us. There are a few good people at the County who I have talked to and they have gone out of their way for us. I don't want to discredit those ones, but we haven't gotten any direction here. Nobody has contacted us."
A glimmer of light has shone through for the people of Hilda in the form of an organization that has stepped up and helped out.
"Thank goodness there is one organization that has not ignored us. Because we are a cross-border community, the Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association have collected feed, straw, grain and has given it to the affected farmers," said Kundert. "Over and above the value of the feed and grain, they have also contributed fencing supplies. To take this out of play is huge, Hilda is a border community and we all work together."
Kundert said they will keep lobbying Alberta beef organizations and said they are waiting for an update from the Western Stock Growers Association.
Chad McPherson, general manager of the Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association said it was an easy decision to make for them to help people on the Alberta side.
"The more we got into it, the more we recognized we needed to help, We are one community, one industry and a lot of Hilda people own land and pay taxes in Saskatchewan," said McPherson. "It was the right thing to do and we tried to help where we could."
The SSGA started a wildfire relief fund in the days following the wildfires at Hilda, Leader, and Tompkins on Oct. 17 to help producers who sustained losses to property, crops, herds, and grain.
"The Saskatchewan government is offering $100,000 in matching grants and the  Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation has contributed $20,000 to our fund," he said.

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