It's been one year since farmers and ranchers in the Bindloss area south of Oyen were forced from their lands by a wild fire that started on Canadian Forces Base Suffield.

 

The fire broke out on September 12, 2017 as the military was disposing of unexploded armaments in the middle of a fire ban. It burned 220 square kilometres on the base and another 58 square kilometres of farm land, forcing about 40 people to take shelter at Bindloss School.

"Some of the residents down there are still dealing with the Federal Government on some of the claims that have been made as a result of the fire," reported Jordon Christianson, Chair of the Special Areas board. "As dry as it was this year, I think we're still keeping an eye on some of the grasslands and haylands that have been affected and monitoring them for longer term recovery."

The affected area has native prairie grass, which Christianson noted can take years to recover after a fire.

"DND (Department of National Defence) did a board of inquiry to determine the causes of the event; they actually completed that in early 2018," stated Christianson. "They were saying that the fire did result from activities on the base, so that allowed for the people that were impacted to fil a claim with the federal government and that is work that has been kind of ongoing."

"I've been talking to a lot of them as we cross paths and there's some frustration out there on the claims process as far as timing and the process that they're actually having to go through on these claims for damages," he added. "It was a dramatic event, it had a huge impact on the community and I think people are still dealing with the aftermath."

Kilometres of fence line were destroyed and upwards of 160 head of cattle had to be put down after they were caught by the fast moving flames. A total of 15 claims had been filed by late July of this year, two of them have been settled and seven claimants have been offered interim payments.

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