Dry conditions in Sask. set grass, fence lines, combine ablaze

Feeding will begin much earlier at Six Mile Ranch this fall after fire swept through stockpiled winter grazing acreage last week.

“We have lost about 11 miles of fence and about 2,800 acres of grass ourselves,” said Clayton Gibson of the Red Angus operation at Fir Mountain, Sask.

“Neighbours have lost probably another 800 acres of grass and probably seven to eight miles of fence.”

A neighbour also lost one animal.

A week after the fire, which was sparked Sept. 4 by a swather cutting durum next to Six Mile, all hands were still monitoring flare-ups.

The fire spread about 11 kilometres long and one km wide at times. It wasn’t until Sept. 10 that flare-ups seemed under control. Firefighters from four municipalities fought the blaze, along with about 500 volunteers from as far away as Gravelbourg, Mankota and Assiniboia.

They fought on foot and with all types of water trucks and tanks. A water bomber, which Gibson said appeared out of nowhere, also helped control the fire.

He said he had planned to use the stockpiled grass until mid-November. Instead, he will have to feed 400 head for two and a half months longer than planned.

“We all know feed is $175 to $200 a tonne. We were just scratching and hoping we had enough feed for winter. Now winter’s kind of begun the first of September.”

Gibson said fighting a fire like that is scary.

“I was out on the hose (where it was) burning along the side and all of a sudden it was right on top of me,” he said. “It had jumped four or five feet.”

Megz Reynolds said she grabbed her cellphone and a hoodie before jumping from her still-moving combine after it caught fire on the weekend while she was straight-cutting canola near Kyle, Sask.

“The way I was cutting, the wind was taking the smoke away from me so I couldn’t actually smell smoke,” she said Sept. 11.

“I had just checked my temperature gauge and it was fine and then my rad alarm dinged.”

Reynolds then saw the black smoke and flames out the window.

“I didn’t even pull the hydrostatic. The combine was still cutting down the field when I jumped out.”

Reynolds, who is on the local fire department, said they were taking all the proper precautions by blowing out the radiator several times a day.

She said that from her experience at other combine fires, she thought she would have time to put out a fire if it ever happened to her.

“You don’t always,” she said.

A combine older than Reynolds will be pressed into duty to finish off their 400 acres.

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