Blackfoot community deals with aftermath of massive grassfire

The land where Jacob Spear Chief’s tiny home once stood is now dirt and ash.

Next to it, was once a church. Chief said neither were paid for by the band – but that his grandfather built them.

“It was a lot of work, lots of money that was spent into it. It’s a bit of a loss,” Jacob told APTN News.

“It’s still kind of hard to realize that I did have my own house here and now there’s nothing left of it.”

Jacob spent over two years renovating the home and was supposed to move into it this month.

But on April 8, a 6,000 hectare grassfire tore through the secluded area of the reserve due to a sweat lodge and was swept up by high winds.

It took down power lines and forced 15 households to evacuate; only Jacob’s home and the church were burned down.

Jacob’s mother, Sharon Spear Chief, said her father, who is now in his 70s, is a pastor and created the church to have a space for community gatherings.

“We had birthday parties here, he would put up golf tournaments as well,” she said.

“It was important for a gathering place for people just to be able to get together. The hard work that he put into it. He did what he could to this church, he loved it.”

Chief and council could not provide an interview, but a representative of Blood Tribe leadership told APTN that there has been communication with families with plans to move forward.

Teddi Cross Child, who grew up in the area, said her mother’s home was one of many that lost power. The power has been restored, but Cross Child said the community is still dealing with disposing of burnt rubble.

“There’s all these other issues they have to deal with,” she said. “It’s not just the fire and they’re back home and this soot, when it’s windy it’s going to still keep blowing into their homes.”

Jacob said he will begin planning to re-build his tiny home but said nothing can replace the structures that held so many memories with his grandfather.

“This was not just a church, but a community centre for everyone to gather, my home next door. And not only loss of those buildings, but his shop as well,” Jacob said.

“That’s where I learned a lot of my mechanics, that’s where I learned my carpentry skills is from my grandpa. He taught us how to be self-sufficient in his shop. And losing that is losing a lot of memories.”

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