‘Our hearts are broken’: Family of Alberta firefighter killed battling wildfire

Click to play video: 'Grass fire has residents from the town of Burstall devastated' Grass fire has residents from the town of Burstall devastated
WATCH: Residents come together to help fire fighters in the small community of Burstall, Saskatchewan. Joel Senick reports – Oct 20, 2017

James Hargrave, a firefighter who died battling wildfires near Hilda, was a proud volunteer firefighter and rancher but nothing eclipsed his love for his family.

Hargrave’s family released a statement Thursday, thanking people for the outpouring of support in the wake of his death.

“We are extremely grateful for all the love, support and kindness from our friends, neighbours and community,” the statement reads.

“James was a proud volunteer firefighter, rancher and steward of the land. But his love for his wife, children and family surpassed all else.

“Our hearts are broken at the sudden loss.”

READ MORE: Firefighter who died battling Alberta wildfire remembered as ‘great father’ 

RCMP said a volunteer firefighter died while operating a water truck aiding efforts to stop the fire from spreading into Saskatchewan.

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RCMP said the grassfire started in the county near Township Road 180 on Tuesday, about five miles west of Highway 41. RCMP said it grew rapidly, quickly moving east because of high winds and dry fuels, spurring the evacuation of Hilda and Schuler.

The fire continued moving east into Saskatchewan and Cypress County firefighters joined local crews in the battle near the communities of Leader and Burstall.

READ MORE: Alberta wildfires 2017 – Current status of wildfires around the province

A relative told Global News Hargrave was in an old army water tanker he owned. It didn’t have a cab — just material for a roof — and sides that folded down. They said he lost control on a newly constructed road in the wind and smoke and the tanker flipped. Hargrave’s family said a pickup truck also lost control and they collided. The second truck caught fire and the driver suffered minor injuries.

READ MORE: ‘Rapidly spreading’ wildfire sparks emergency alert, evacuations in southeastern Alberta’s hamlet of Hilda 

The relative said the Hargrave family has met with the RCMP.

In a statement, the county said Hargrave was a Walsh Fire Station firefighter and joined because he wanted to protect others.

“James was community-minded… He was a great father and will be dearly missed by his wife, children, extended family, friends, neighbours and fellow first responders.”

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