Ranchers still waiting for answers on damage caused by controlled burns

By Chad Klassen
August 18, 2017 - 5:27pm

CLINTON, B.C. — Less than a week after sending a letter and video to the Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resources, a group of ranchers near Clinton haven't heard any response from the provincial government. 

They are looking for compensation after back burning by the B.C. Wildfire Service got out of control and caused damage to rancher's properties earlier this month. 

It's been an emotional few weeks for Christine Watt, a ranch owner on Loon Lake Road who's dealing with the aftermath of controlled burns that have destroyed portions of her 700-acre ranch. 

"I can't get this land back. There's no way I can get this land back," said Watt. "There's no way I can get these trees back. There's no way I can get the grass back."

It's feed and land for her cattle, which are still staying in Cache Creek. Watt's husband's family has had the ranch since 1948. She says it'll never be the same. 

"Major devastation for us. It's ruined our property values her. Who wants to buy property that's this badly burned," noted Watt. "It's just horrible. How do we put cattle out on this and not worry about these trees falling down on them. We don't have the ability to cut these trees down and make this land usable again."

Their irrigation pipe also burned and will cost them thousands of dollars to fix. The group of ranchers has released video of the controlled burns that eventually jumped Highway 97. 

They hope the video shows the B.C. Wildfire Service made a huge mistake. 

"There's a violation in the Criminal Code of Canada that's called 'reckless disregard for life and safety,' and anybody who looks at the videos that we have, I challenge them to tell me that this is not a reckless disregard for life and safety," said John McNamer, a fellow rancher in the area. 

Watt says this experience makes her think she won't leave the ranch next time a wildfire is nearby. 

"I will never leave again," said Watt. "I was the one who insisted that we leave and my husband wanted to stay. I would neverleave a fire again, and I'm not encouraging anyone else to do that. But I wouldn't do it purely because I no longer trust anything that comes out of [B.C. Wildfire Service] mouth."

CFJC Today contacted the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources for reaction but they declined an interview. However, Minister Doug Donaldson has said the government will compensate ranchers on a "case by case basis." 

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