Vandals likely torched a Heritage Ranch hay shed early Sunday, leaving staff scrambling to replace $3,500 worth of hay.
“It happened around 4 a.m.,” said Roy Williams, a teamster and wrangler and the popular equestrian centre. “It was set. We lost everything.”
The metal shed, which had only been up for a couple of years, was destroyed. A pile of twisted sheet metal was all that was left.
Dozens of bales of hay and straw stored inside were also ruined by water and the chemicals the fire department had to spray on to contain the blaze.
A backhoe was brought in to pull apart the stacked bales to get at hot spots, said Timothy Kivell, a fire prevention officer for Red Deer Emergency Services.
The fire is considered a suspected arson and the RCMP have been notified, he said. “There was no reasonable source of ignition found within the structure.”
The damage was estimated at $50,000 for the structure and $10,000 for the contents, which included a wagon used for rides.
Williams said the search is now on for replacement fodder for Heritage Ranch’s dozen or so horses. Any donations would be welcomed, he said.
“It’s $3,500 worth of hay and straw that’s gone. With the price of everything right now, we don’t need it.”
About four to five days of hay are on hand, but after that more supplies will be needed.
The pointless act of vandalism is just the latest in a line of frustrations for ranch operators. “We get tested from every angle,” he added.
Williams said he routinely finds people in the area late into the evening when the ranch is closed and said some are there to make drug deals.
“I know it’s going on. It’s pretty unfortunate.”
Security had to chase people off the roof of the building last Friday when some wedding-goers decided to jump from the observation tower.
Despite the aggravations caused by local trouble makers, the ranch has been having a successful season. Many birthday parties and weddings have been held already and visitors have been commenting favourably on the facility.