Canada's military was on trial Thursday in Bindloss, about an hour south of Oyen, and they didn't fare very well.
Upwards of 100 area ranchers and farmers turned out to voice their anger over a grass fire this week that burned 16,000 acres of Special Area 2 next to Canadian Forces Base Suffield.
The fire, believed to have been caused by the demolition of explosives on the base, destroyed one homestead and killed more than 160 head of cattle, many of them belonging to Ivan Schlaht.
"I lost about 100 head, the grossest thing i've ever seen in my life and i've seen a lot of bad stuff," he told 99.5 Drum FM.
Hardened range hands fought back tears as they described shooting the badly injured animals. Everyone felt for 89 year old Morley Sarvis, who lost his home, his outbuildings and all of his possessions.
"I've been here 40 years and I've been out there fighting more fires than I care to," Schlaht recalled. "It seems like they figure the fence line will stop the fires and that just doesn't work, that's just an imaginary line."
Local crews who responded to the fire call Monday night said they watched the flames cross over from the Suffield Base. The acting base commander has said they're still trying to confirm if their actions started the giant fire, but Schlaht has no doubts.
"This has gone on too long, we've been too passive (and) we've got to get something done," he protested. "It's never been this severe before, but we're sitting on the edge of the seat all the time wondering if we're going to be next. Things have got to change."
That comment ws echoed by Bindloss Mayor Daryl Swenson.
Thursday's meeting was hosted by the Special Areas and MC'ed by Chairman Jordan Christianson. Other attendees included Battle River-Crowfoot MP Kevin Sorenson, who promised to bring the matter up with the defense minister, along with MLA's Rick Strankman from Drumheller-Stettler and Drew Barnes from Cypress-Medicine Hat.
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