Tracey O’Connell, owner of Tod Mountain Ranch in BC, Canada, explains the challenges faced with running a guest ranch located in prime forest fire territory...
“Every year since opening we have experienced fires within 50km of the ranch,” explains Tracey. “The most noteworthy – and scary – came in 2009, when lightening started a fire on the mountain just opposite the ranch.”
Terrifyingly, the fire raged for several weeks and travelled down the mountain to within 1km of Tod Mountain ranch. Staff and guests were ready to evacuate the Canada guest ranch at a moment’s notice, and evacuation plans were even put in place for the horses. “With the assistance of the RCMP, we planned to run our herd of horses 5km down a gravel road to a neighbour’s property,” Tracey explains. “Our neighbour had kindly offered to allow us to put our horses in a section of his hayfield – which had yet to be harvested!"
For Tracey and her family, the experience was more than just a threat to their lives – it was a threat to their whole livelihood and everything they had worked on since taking on the guest ranch operation in 2008, just one year earlier. For the guests staying at Tod Mountain at the time, however, the fire provided an element of drama and excitement to their dude ranch vacations. “We had several guests here during the period the fire burned,” recalls Tracey. “They particularly appreciated the sound and light show provided by the planes and helicopters flying overhead all day – and were very excited when one of the helicopters landed in our pasture, right in front of the lodge, to try to take water from the creek. But perhaps the best part for our female guests was the constant parade of firecrew that visited us during that period to check on us and keep us updated…!”
Raging from 19 August to 9 September, the fire spread to more than 250 hectares. Tod Mountain ranch was used as a staging area for the ground crews and medical crews, until the fire was finally stamped out by a fire crew comprising more than 170 fire fighters.
“During the period of the fire and for several weeks after, we lost the use of a number of our trails to the west of our property,” Tracey adds. “However, once the fire was out and the ground crews finished the clean-up, not only were we able to get back on our existing trails, but the construction of a new fireguard opened up a whole new trail for us.”
Fire is just one of the many environmental threats faced by guest ranches throughout the world, but in true ranching style they work through it together - and always find a positive in the situation!
For more information on Tod Mountain Ranch, view their ranch profile at Top50Ranches.com