A fire destroyed six buildings, fuel storage tanks and other equipment on the Erskine farm of Stettler county councillor Joe Gendre and his wife, Circun, last Thursday afternoon.
“We are so grateful there was no loss of life and that we have our home,” Circun Gendre said.
Joe Gendre said the help from neighbours, family and the Stettler Regional Fire Department was “overwhelming.”
He said the Rowledge family and the Erskine Hutterite Colony brought their water tankers to assist the fire department’s four units in battling the blaze.
“I am glad there were no other fires that day in the county,” Joe said.
All of Stettler’s firefighting equipment was needed to save the remaining buildings on the Gendre farm.
He said neighbour Eric Haustein moved equipment out of the line of the flames and many neighbours assisted in multiple ways.
Joe said the fire began at about 3:30 p.m. when he was using a grinding wheel to cut a bolt off a sweep on his cultivator.
He said the cultivator was on a gravelled area of the yard, but northwest winds blew sparks 25 feet into dry grass.
He noticed the fire immediately and tried to beat it out with his shirt, but wasn’t able to do so.
The fire spread to a nearby storage shed that housed pails of oil and garden equipment, destroying that within minutes, and soon engulfed three fuel storage tanks just 60 feet away from the Gendre home.
Joe said he watered the house down with a garden hose until the fire knocked the power out.
The diesel fuel drained, causing a blaze that wiped out a row of 60-yearold spruce trees.
Joe said the fire moved to a cinderblock shop with a metal roof, but that didn’t stop the blaze. It got inside and into the rafters, and destroyed that building as well, taking with it tools, a welder, lathe, hardware supplies and countless other items used a farm.
Joe said the fire jumped across the gravelled portion of the yard to land near his dairy barn.
“It was only about six feet in diameter when we noticed it, and the neighbours tried to put it out, but with the wind and dry grass, it was useless.”
The blaze consumed a pole loafing shed, the milk parlour and a hay shed.
“It didn’t take long for all this to happen,” Joe said.
At that point, the fire department arrived, he said.
He used his tractor and cultivator to plow a fire guard to the southeast side of his farm to prevent further damage, but noticed a bale stack on fire.
That blaze burned back into another barn, and destroyed it.
The Gendres don’t have livestock, so the buildings were used for storage. Joe said a motorhome, a couple of small tractors, Bobcat attachments, a one-ton truck and a fifth-wheel trailer were among the items lost.
He said the firefighters extinguished a wagon that was burning in a heavily grassed area near the hip-roof barn, which was also spared damage.
Joe said the fire has given him a new outlook.
“The electrical connections shouldn’t be in a building,” he said. “They should be in a separate fire proof structure.”
He also said all areas around the farmyard should be mowed to prevent the build-up of tall, dead grass.
The Gendres tried to remain positive, despite the devastation.
“We are lucky we still have our big equipment so we can still farm,” Circun said.
Joe said they would have lost “everything” if not for the quick work of their neighbours and the Stettler fire department.