B.C. forest fires threaten cattle

A provincial state of emergency has been declared in British Columbia, where more than 200 forest fires are raging.

About 10,000 people have been evacuated and emergency plans are underway to protect livestock.

“There are a lot of cattle and a lot of range that we know is being affected. We know that we have lost some structures but we are not sure to what extent,” said Kevin Boone, manager of the B.C. Cattlemen’s Association.

Producers are told to open gates and cut fences where needed. The fast moving fires have been burning relentlessly since July 7. Access is blocked to many ranges so getting livestock out is a particular challenge.

“We are trying to organize wherever possible evacuation of cattle,” Boone said.

“The ability to even move cattle and get them to where we can get them loaded is almost impossible,” he said.

Much of the interior region of the Cariboo and southern areas of Ashcroft, Cache Creek and Princeton are impacted.

The association is working with the province to find feed and set up emergency plans.

Catherine Brown of Copper Creek Ranch at Princeton said her home is in jeopardy and they are making a fire plan. The cattle are still safe but the atmosphere is smoky, hot and windy.

“There was a wicked wind yesterday and the fire took off and became a monster,” she said.

They still have cellular service but getting information is difficult as more people are told to leave their homes.

“The communication thing has been really tricky here,” she said.

Her family packed up a truck with valuables and left their home behind.

“Our home is right in the centre of the main fire activity. It is a little bit emotional,” she said.

There is a buffer between themselves and the fire at present but plans are underway to move cattle to another parcel of the ranch.

“If it skips the next mountain, our main headquarters are at risk,” she said.

“It is all up in the air and we are all in survival mode right now.”

Emergency information is available at 1-250-398-5117 and 1-250-573-3611 or at http://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/safety/wildfire-status/fire-danger.

barbara.duckworth@producer.com

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