The fire near Burstall, Sask., covered more than 30,000 hectares, while the Tompkins fire was about 4,000 hectares in size. These fires didn’t just destroy land they also took hundreds of livestock with them.
Officials are reporting roughly 750 cattle were either killed or had to be euthanized after being caught in the fires. The figure comes as the province follows up with veterinarians and ranchers to assess the damage caused. Veterinarians included the staff with Maple Creek Veterinary Services.
“The decision to send MCVS staff to the wildfire was made within the clinic as we became aware of the situation unfolding the morning after the fire,” owner Dr. Klea-Ann Wasilow said. “As we were getting ready to go, we began co-ordinating with the Saskatchewan Veterinary Medical Association, the Leader RCMP and clients we know in the affected region to attempt to isolate the areas where we could be the greatest assistance.”
The toll on livestock has been described as a devastating scene by Wasilow and other vets responding to the chaos.
“Initially, I was feeling overwhelmed by the extent of the loss and injury to livestock by the wildfires,” she said. “Following discussions with other veterinarians attending to the region none of us have experienced this scope of devastation throughout our career.
“As veterinarians, we are often faced with graphic and unsettling disease, trauma and losses, no different than human health-care professionals. But this case far surpasses anything I have experienced or could ever have even imagined.”
A small number of wild animals also had to be euthanized by conservation officers. But they don’t expect the loss of life to wild animals to affect the future of those species in the area.
“We did receive calls of deer walking around that were badly burned that we had to go euthanize, but it was only a handful,” Leader conservation officer Kevin Fitzsimonds said. “It was very minor regarding the wildlife affected, less than a dozen animals all totalled. Since wildlife can avoid the fences and jump over them, they can get away from the fires where the cattle can’t.”
Fitzsimonds added that for the most part, wildlife escaped the fire and that himself and the other conservation officer have concluded the search process for wildlife that may have been affected. The focus, for now, will be on dealing with the aftermath of a tragedy that has taken not just animal life but human life. Though the full economic effects of the fires are not fully known, Wasilow says this has greatly hurt ranchers.
“Area ranchers have suffered tremendous livestock loss and injury along with infrastructure loss to their operations,” she said. “The stress related to the burial of lost livestock, ensuring the best possible care for the surviving livestock and monitoring apparently unaffected livestock will continue to occupy a significant amount of the affected producers time.
“The emotional, financial and overall toll on these producers, first responders, firefighters and the entire community will be felt for an extremely long time.”
Following the devastating wildfires in southwest Saskatchewan, many agricultural organizations are lobbying the provincial government to provide a fire insurance option for forage crops and pasture land.
To help farmers and ranchers after the fire, the Saskatchewan Stock Grower’s Association has launched a wildfire relief fund. To contribute to the wildfire relief fund or to apply, you can visit skstockgrowers.com, or you can call 306-757-8523.