The typically lush, green hills of the Lumsden valley have been charred black after a grass fire tore through late Thursday afternoon.
Lumsden’s volunteer fire department was dispatched just after 4 p.m.
By 7:30 p.m., Regina fire crews, along with others from Craven and Regina Beach, were called in to battle the blaze, which burnt about 800 acres of land.
“The fire is now under control and will be monitored through the night,” wrote Lumsden Fire Chief Jeff Carey in a statement just before 10 p.m. Thursday night. “Thanks to everyone who came out to assist, Craven Fire, Regina Beach Fire Department, Regina Fire and private citizens.”
As of early Friday afternoon, local fire crews were still cruising the area to check for hot spots.
Dallas Valley Ranch Camp spared in the blaze
Chris Theissen, executive director of Dallas Valley Ranch Camp, said he was driving around 3:30 p.m. when he first noticed smoke billowing over Lumsden. After he arrived back at the camp, he got a call from a neighbour telling him the grass fire was heading south towards them.
At that point, Theissen said he went over to a neighbour’s place to borrow their pump truck full of water, before heading to another neighbour’s house closest to the fire. As soon as he arrived there, Theissen said he started dousing their lawn with water in preparation for the blaze, which was burning about 15 feet away.
“You could feel the heat coming at you as you were spraying the grass with the water,” he explained. “It was pretty scary for awhile.”
While fighting the fire, Theissen said his mind kept trailing back to the idea that Dallas Valley could be next.
“The fact that we might not have 2,000 kids come this summer to camp would be pretty devastating,” he remembered thinking.
Theissen said, thankfully, Dallas Valley never did get touched by the fire and their neighbour’s home was saved — something he attributes to the overwhelming community support.
“The people pitching in to help protect our neighbours are just a real blessing,” he said. “There’s nothing better than a Saskatchewan small town community, where we can all just come together when times are tough.”
Between fire crews and community volunteers, Theissen estimated around 100 people were out helping control the blaze.
Happy Hollow garage, pick-up truck eaten by fire
While Dallas Valley wasn’t bitten by the blaze, down the road at Happy Hollow, the fire ripped through a garage and a pick-up truck parked outside it.
“I just stopped there, and their house and their siding is melted,” described Theissen. “The house is filled with smoke inside, and they had some stuff burn in the valley, but the house is still standing.”
“I can’t thank you all enough for saving our home. We were told if they would of came 10 minutes later we would of lost it all,” Happy Hollow wrote in a Facebook post Friday morning. “We don’t know the extent of the damage to Happy Hollow just yet. Thankfully, the buildings are ok.”
Communities come together to save valley home
Jayleen Fitzsimmons said it was a matter of minutes between her husband calling to tell her about the grass fire and RCMP driving up to her acreage east of Lumsden, urging her to evacuate it.
“I started grabbing my passport, birth certificate, then threw a few items of clothing in a suitcase. We also have animals, so I got their stuff ready,” she explained.
From there, she travelled to the top of the valley, where she watched as fire crews and dozens of volunteers saved her home from the blaze.
“Some people brought shovels out and they actually created a line down the one hill in front of our house, forming a fire guard,” she said, adding a friend from Regina Beach also drove over with his grader to help build another dirt barrier.
Because “words weren’t adequate enough to thank everybody,” Fitzsimmons added — once the fire was put out — she invited all the first responders and volunteers inside her garage for a meal before they went out again to check for hot spots.
“It’s kind of what we do best, you know, we take care of each other,” she said.