Sask. wildfire relief fund raises $500,000

The wildfire relief fund established by the Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association after last fall’s fires raised about half a million dollars for affected producers.

General manager Chad MacPherson said the effort raised about $254,000 in cash, including a $100,000 contribution from the province.

More than $200,000 worth of in-kind donations also came in for feed, fencing, trucking, minerals and other items. The SSGA helped connect the donors with those who needed help.

“It was a bad situation and hopefully we helped them through a rough time,” MacPherson said.

Most of the money was paid out in January to 30 applicants. There was no restriction on what they could use it for. For example, a producer who lost a herd would have no income to pay the winter’s home heating bill.

MacPherson said there is still ongoing discussion between local areas and the Mennonite Disaster Service, whose volunteers may help with fencing.

The fires of Oct. 17 killed about 770 head of cattle and bison and burned 80,000 acres of grass and fences. Earlier fires also burned significant acreage and fences.

MacPherson also said producers are all in different situations in terms of what they lost and how and if they are able to proceed. Some lost all their pasture and grass so liquidated their herds, while others have grass in other locations and are able to move their animals for this grazing season.

“It just depends where their animals were and how their operation was spread out,” he said.

It’s unknown how many producers who lost cattle have replaced them.

Kevin Riehl, whose parents lost their herd of about 90 head in the fire near Richmound, Sask., said they still aren’t exactly sure how they will rebuild. They do have pasture that wasn’t affected, but it’s only enough to run 10 to 20 cow-calf pairs this year.

His father was also burned in the fire and still has ongoing treatment on his hands.

“It’s our intention,” he said of rebuilding.

“But we have to wait and see what the grass is doing first.”

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