The organization representing Saskatchewan’s rural municipalities is challenging the province to do more to help those affected by Oct. 17 wildfires near Burstall, Empress and Tompkins.
Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM) president Ray Orb toured the damaged areas Monday, noting miles of fences and hundreds of acres of grazing lands had been lost.
He also updated the number of dead or severely affected cattle, saying the tally was close to 900 cows and calves.
“The ones that seemed to be okay after the fire, they could have respiratory problems or things like that,” Orb said. “They’re looking at further losses as the days go on.”
The 22-year veteran of rural politics told 650 CKOM many ranchers are facing financial difficulties with the loss of calves just before potentially selling them, and there’s worries about having enough viable grazing land due to the large swathe of land scorched by the blaze.
In light of this, Orb said SARM will be pushing the Saskatchewan government to provide more assistance.
He noted the Provincial Disaster Assistance Plan (PDAP) doesn’t cover wildfire damages, and grasslands aren’t covered by insurance at all.
“Those pastures are going to be unusable for a number of years,” Orb said, adding persistent droughts over the last several years could slow down the re-growth of grasses.
“They’re going to be in trouble next year, the year after and possibly the third year.”
SARM plans to vote on resolutions to lobby the government for changes at its midterm convention in Regina on Nov. 7 and 8.
Orb did commend the province for assisting ranchers in disposing of dead cattle.
He also applauded the local community and the Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association for their work to raise money for those affected by the fires.
A fundraiser was held in Fox Valley Monday evening, collecting an estimated $100,000 to help the family of a volunteer firefighter who died fighting the fires, as well as two ranchers who were injured near Tompkins.
The Stock Growers Association has raised nearly $200,000 in cash and supplies for area ranchers as well.