Huge grass fire sparked on CFB Suffield base

By Leah Murray
September 12, 2017 - 5:19pm Updated: September 12, 2017 - 7:00pm


MEDICINE HAT, AB — The owner of a farm north of Medicine Hat that was destroyed in a fire said he’s devastated.

“I grew up on that farm,” said Morley Sarvis. “It's heartbreaking to lose something like that.”

Morley was home in bed at the time. Neighbours had to break down his door to get him out because he didn’t hear them knocking.

“They got him out and took him to a neighbour's place where it was safe,” said neighbour Daryl Swenson. “It was a matter of not very long and the place was gone.”

Officials say it’s estimated thousands of acres burnt up in the fire.

“[There were] miles of fence line destroyed, there's downed power lines, there's that kind of clean up that's involved as well, so certainly that's going to take some time.” said Special Areas board chair Jordon Christianson.

Fire officials said the fire started near the north east corner of the CFB Suffield base.

The base confirming military personnel detonated an unexploded ordnance, leading to a grass fire that got out of control for their fire crew on scene.

Acting commander Major Hugh Atwell said they are taking responsibility for the fire on the base, but not the one outside of it until further investigation.

“There was a report of another fire off base which spread significantly,” explained Atwell. “What I can't confirm at this time is [if] that fire was also started by the destruction of the ordinance.”

Atwell added the base will be looking into the matter and expects to have a better handle on what happened within the next few days.

Meanwhile some residents say they're frustrated they could do nothing to stop the fire when it was spotted on the base.

“They won't let us in there to fight a fire inside the block, but they won't look after it themselves,” said Swenson. “So, we have to be on guard every time there's a fire in there because this is what happens.”

Atwell said allowing civilians onto the base is a safety issue as there often can be dangers like unexploded ordnance.

Around 40 residents were evacuated during the fire Monday night. Officials have since given the all clear for them to return home, but many will be staying in Bindloss for a few days until power is restored to their homes.

Morely said he will likely go to live with family near Olds now that his home is gone.

-With files from Paul MacEachern / Global News

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