CLIVE, Alta. — Meindert and Johanna Dijkstra were nearing home around 10:30 p.m. Feb. 4 after being out for the evening.
As the couple got closer to their farm, set in the hills a few kilometres southeast of Clive, they wondered at the orange glow in the night sky. Upon turning south at their range road they were met by neighbour Tim Vander Roest, who told them one of their barns was on fire.
The barn housed 300 goats.
Vander Roest had already called 911 and was waiting there at the Highway 12 turnoff to direct firefighters because the numbered range road sign was missing.
Vander Roest said his son, Gabriel, 17, had returned home a few minutes earlier from nearby Alix to report a glow in the sky and the appearance of flames as seen from the Vander Roest driveway.
Tim, who had been a volunteer firefighter for 16 years, jumped in his truck and hurried to investigate. The blaze was well under way, and firefighters from Clive, Alix and Lacombe began to arrive 15 minutes later.
Clive Fire Chief Monte Zaytsoff said the roof had collapsed by the time his crew arrived at approximately 10:45, and it was too late to save the structure or animals, which he said were “already gone.”
“At that point I called in the track hoe to pull the tin off the roof,” he said.
The priority then was to contain and extinguish the blaze and ensure other buildings and livestock were not at risk.
Lost in the fire were approximately 200 milking goats and 100 or so pregnant goats due to kid soon.
Unharmed were another 90 younger goats in a nearby pole building, 100 dairy bull calves in another barn nearby and the family’s main livelihood, a 4,000 head finishing hog operation elsewhere on the farm.
The Dijkstras had left their farm that evening around 6:30 to deliver their weekly collection of goats’ milk to their dairy processor in Ponoka. They then stopped to visit friends for a while before heading home.
Dijkstra said arriving to such a tragedy was “a shock” and “unreal.” He said the 13,000 sq. foot structure had under floor heat in just the central parlour.
Investigations are underway to determine the cause of the blaze, he added.
“We plan to rebuild,” Dijkstra said.
“It will take a couple years, but we’ll build the herd again.”