Ranchers work together to save cattle in fire zones

Shrouded in thick smoke, cowboys on horseback slowly moved a herd of cattle east of Hanceville Wednesday, trying to get them out of harm’s way as wildfires continue to ravage the Chilcotin.

“We thought this was a safe spot,” said Mike Jasper, as he and other cowboys from neighbouring ranches moved a small herd of cattle, blackened and weary looking, from the Lee’s Corner area toward Riske Creek.

“But I don’t know — there’s fires on both sides of us.”

Al Madley of neighbouring Canyon Ranch worked traffic control for the group on Highway 20 as air support from the BC Wildfire Service tried to slow a fire close by along the highway in Riske Creek.

Madley said many of the cowboys from area ranches are working together to help one another. Yesterday, they had found 120 head and were still out looking for another 120 that were missing.

Barbed wire fences were cut and gates were opened during the intense fire in the Hanceville area Friday night in an effort to give the cattle a chance to save themselves while local racnhers and loggers were fighting to save their own homes from the blaze as well.

Several ranches are not out from under the threat of wildfires yet, as the Hanceville blaze continues to grow and move into the Fletcher Lake area.

Madley confirmed ranchers in the Chilcotin are staying inside areas where evacuation orders are in place to protect their ranches and save their cattle.

“When you have that much livestock, that’s your whole life,” Madley said. “You don’t just leave.”

Since the fires broke out Friday, ranchers were essentially on their own to deal with the crisis as other fires broke out across the province, spreading resources thin.

Cowboys in the Chilcotin drive cattle from Hanceville toward Riske Creek in between two fire zones out west Wednesday. Several fires are burning out of control in the vast rural area, threatening ranches and homes in many different areas. (Angie Mindus photos)
Al Madley of Canyon Ranch helps out on a cattle drive along Highway 20 Wednesday. The area is under an evacuation order.
Cowboy Mike Jasper moves cattle owned by Chilco Ranch, Miller Ranch and River Ranch, to a safer location with access to water. During the height of the fires in the Lee’s Corner area fences were cut and gates were opened to give the cattle a chance to escape the fires.
Mike Jasper talks with Paul Grinder of the Tsilhqot’in National Government, who has been delivering food and supplies to residents of the Anaham Reserve.
Al Madley of Canyon Ranch
Cowboy Jeff Taylor assists with the cattle drive.
Cattle try to find safety in the middle of areas devastated by wildfire at Hanceville shortly after fire swept throught the area on the weekend. (photo submitted)
Cows that escaped the wildfires at Hanceville this week graze on grass near Highway 20 Wednesday.

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