A Cochrane couple is thanking local first responders and neighbours for helping to save their 20 animals during Thursday's grass fire west of Cochrane.
Both AJ and Blaire Rivard were working when they got word that there was a grass fire very close to their home, which is near the Wildcat Hills Gas Extraction Plant.
AJ Rivard says "I was at work and she was at work and she actually had a customer come into the sanctuary that she was checking in and they had mentioned, hey you know there's a grass fire right beside the gas plant and my wife reacted, what? maybe my house. So she just left work and then got in the car and sped over to the firemen and sure enough saw all the smoke."
Blaire Rivard works nearby at the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary.
Rivard says "She was able to get back to the farm and get our two Labs and get them in the car and we also have chickens and a duck and as she was trying to get them all loaded in the car. The police and fire department showed up right at the door and said you got to get out of here, we are evacuating, so my wife wasn't even able to get all the chickens."
He says she had to leave the property not knowing what would happen to their animals.
"My wife had talked to the fire department and the police and they said just get out of here, don't worry about it, we'll take care of your birds. And we got a call at 8:30 on Thursday night saying, hey, we have your birds over at Ghost Station in a dog kennel and they're all safe. We were amazed that they all survived."
In all they have two dogs named Leia and Grizzly, 17 chickens and a duck named Rosie.
Rivard says the smoke in the area at the time of the fire was so thick it was dangerous to be on the road.
"The amount of smoke when my wife was leaving, you couldn't even see a foot in front of you. She almost got t-boned from that gas plant road right next to the farm, that was a scary drive for her just getting out of there."
He says the home is badly damaged because of the smoke and water and they don't anticipate being able to move back into the home for several months.
"There's a long road there to remediate. They have to cut a big portion of the roof out and redo it because a lot of the trusses were damaged on the north side of the house. They have to gut all of the flooring, they have to gut all of the drywall throughout the entire house. Same with the flooring throughout the entire house. I would bet we're not going to be back in that house before much the end of summer, if not fall."
The home belongs to relatives of Rivard's and AJ and Blaire were renting. They did have content insurance but he says it's too early to know what will be covered.
A gofundme page has been set up to help get the couple back on their feet during this difficult time.
AJ is an electrician but says he is currently looking for work.
Rivard says he and Blaire are incredibly thankful for everyone who has helped them during this difficult time "reiterate how grateful we are to all our family and friends for all the overwhelming support we’ve had, it’s truly amazing. We are incredibly thankful for the firefighters, Christine from the Cochrane RCMP for saving our chickens and Rosie the duck. Also, Caroline and Corine from Ghost Station for keeping the birds safe for us while we were evacuated and our neighbour Virginia, she’s been amazing."
Firefighters from Cochrane, Rocky View County, Redwood Meadows and Stoney Nakoda all responded to Thursday's fire.