Volunteer firefighter, rancher dies fighting wildfire

James Hargrave, a 34-year-old rancher from Walsh, Alta., died yesterday while fighting the prairie wildfire near Hilda, Alta.

Hargrave was a volunteer fire-fighter with the Walsh department and was killed when the water-tanker truck he was driving rolled on a grid road about 10 kilometres south of Burstall, Sask.

RCMP say the accident occurred at about midnight Tuesday. Hargrave was the lone occupant of the truck but a second vehicle was involved after the initial roll-over. That driver suffered minor injuries.

“It is unknown at this time if fire and/or smoke in the area were factors in the collision,” the RCMP said.

“Leader (Sask.) RCMP, with assistance from an RCMP traffic reconstructionist and the Provincial Coroner’s Office are continuing to investigate.”

Hargrave is well known in cattle and grazing circles and was a keen advocate of preserving prairie grassland. He was current chair of the Alberta Grazing Leaseholders Association and a director with the Western Stock Growers Association.

Alberta premier Rachel Notley, Agriculture Minister Oneil Carlier and Cypress area MLA Drew Barnes sent condolences through social media earlier today.

“My heart breaks for the family of James Hargrave, a well respected young Alberta rancher,” said Carlier on Twitter. “I count myself lucky to have met him.”

Robert Wanner, MLA for Medicine Hat, said Hargrave’s death “cut like a knife into the soul of our community.”

“James’ love of Alberta was infectious and his priority was always to protect the land for the benefit of the community and future generations. He died as he lived, responding to the needs of his neighbours and his community.”

Hargrave leaves behind his wife, Elizabeth, and young children. He is the fourth generation, and last in the family line, to work the 25,000 acre family ranch, which was established in 1888.

He was predeceased by his parents and his sister.

Contact barb.glen@producer.com

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