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)

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

Just Posted

The Sylvan Lake Gulls show off the home jerseys (white) and their way jerseys at the Gulls Media Day on June 17, before the season opener. Following the media day, the team took to the field for their first practise. (Photo by Megan Roth/Sylvan Lake News)
Sylvan Lake Gulls ready to throw first pitch as construction continues

The Gulls inaugural season kicks off June 18 with a game against the Edmonton Prospects

Alberta is now below 3,000 active cases of COVID-19, as the province reported 2,639 Wednesday. (NIAID-RML via AP)
Red Deer below 100 active COVID-19 cases for first time since March

69.7 per cent of Albertans 12 and over have at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine

Premier Jason Kenney says the provincial government is doing everything it can to encourage Albertans to get vaccinated. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Travel prizes added to Alberta’s vaccine lottery

More than 40 travel rewards available for those who are fully vaccinated

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on Friday, February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
U.S. border restrictions to remain in place until at least July 21

Safety minister says Canada, U.S. extending restrictions on non-essential international travel

The Calgary skyline is seen on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
2 deaths from COVID-19 Delta variant in Alberta, 1 patient was fully immunized

Kerry Williamson with Alberta Health Services says the patients likely acquired the virus in the hospital

A vial containing the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is shown at a vaccination site in Marcq en Baroeul, outside Lille, northern France, Saturday, March 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Michel Spingler
mRNA vaccines ‘preferred’ for all Canadians, including as 2nd dose after AstraZeneca: NACI

New recommendations prioritizes Pfizer, Moderna in almost all cases

House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., center left, reaches over to Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., joined by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., center, and members of the Congressional Black Caucus as they celebrate the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act that creates a new federal holiday to commemorate June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers brought the news of freedom to enslaved Black people after the Civil War, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, June 17, 2021. It’s the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was created in 1983. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Biden to sign bill making Juneteenth a federal holiday

New American stat marks the nation’s end of slavery

A screenshot of the First Peoples Cultural Councils First Peoples’ Map. (First Peoples Cultural Council)
Online resource blends B.C.-Alberta’s Indigenous languages, art and culture

Advisor says initiative supports the urgent need to preserve Indigenous languages

A plane is silhouetted as it takes off from Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., May 13, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Report calls for airlines to refund passengers for flights halted due to COVID-19

Conclusion: federal help should be on the condition airlines immediately refund Canadian travellers

Green party Leader Annamie Paul speaks during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, June 15, 2021. Paul has survived another day of party strife after a planned ouster shifted course, leaving her with a tenuous grip on power ahead of a likely federal election this year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Green Leader Annamie Paul blasts ‘racist,’ ‘sexist’ party execs who sought ouster

Fallout has continued, with two of the federal council’s members resigning

Most Read