Alberta ranchers and farmers frustrated by slow compensation process after military blaze torches land

By HUB SmartCoverage Team on December 18th, 2017

It has been over three months since a deadly fire that began at Alberta's CFB Suffield base (the largest military training facility in Canada) ran rampant and devastated a massive stretch of southeastern Alberta. Yet despite the fact that it has been ages since the blaze was dealt with, many of the farmers and ranchers affected by its destruction are still waiting on compensation for what it did to their farmland and animals.

Daryl Swenson is one such farmer. More than 500 hectares of his grazing and crop land were tarnished by the flames. He has already borrowed over $60,000 in order to begin repairs and salvage what he can. And despite receiving an apology and a face-to-face sitdown with some of the military officials from the base, they have yet to send out an insurance adjuster to take stock of the losses.

"We've all had a lot of expenses that a lot of us are paying interest on," said Swenson. "So we are out that money for that much time. The sooner the better he's out here."

The fire, which began after military personnel lost control of previously unexploded ordnance that they were hoping to get rid of in a contained manner, burned an estimated 36,500 hectares of land. However, the extent of the damage runs much deeper than the already overwhelming property wreckage.

"A million dollars still wouldn't cover what I lost because of the anguish the cattle and myself went through," said Ivan Schlacht, one of the affected farmers.

The natural reaction after a tragedy such as this one is to immediately take measures to ensure that it doesn't happen again. Though some changes appear set to be made, it may not be enough to satisfy many of the nearby residents.

They are pushing for a fire guard to be built around various sections of the base's perimeter, but that is "very unlikely" to happen in 2018, according to CFB Suffield's Lt.-Col. Mike Onieu. He indicated that the base's first step will be doing a clearance operation to ensure that there is no unexploded ammunition in the area.

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