The charred remains of several buildings that were burned to the ground after being struck by lightning Friday evening SE of Beiseker , Alberta on July 28,2012 . The buildings were part of the Grand'ole west Villa Ranche that consists of numerous old western style buildings. Some props, at the ranch appeared in movies like Brokeback Mountain and Legends of the fall. The Hixt fmily had been working on and adding to the buildings since the 1970's.
Credits: STUART DRYDEN/QMI AGENCY
NEAR BEISEKER, AB -- A historic property that has been featured in Hollywood movies was gutted by fire Friday night.
Ruth and Larry Hixt could only watch and pray while the blaze cut a destructive path along the main street of their western-style town, Grand Ole West Villa Ranch.
"We were praying it wouldn't spread," Ruth said Saturday.
The fire department said the call came through at 6:25 p.m. Friday, crews not arriving until 7:01. The Hixt family estimates it was 55 minutes from when the first 911 call was made.
Either way, by the time crews attacked the fire caused by lightning, several buildings dating to the late 1800s and early 1900s were gone.
On Saturday, Larry Hixt, who passionately began building the town with his family more than 30 years ago -- with numerous original buildings including a school, church, bakery and rail station all filled with antiques and decorated with his scrap-metal sculptures -- simply stood and looked at what was left.
"It was an act of love - we didn't have any government input," Ruth said of the ranch the couple built with their children, Howard and Global TV crime reporter Nancy.
"It takes a spark to get a fire going and minutes to take memories. It's a lot of memories. It could have been prevented, but we are thankful it wasn't worse."
Rocky View fire chief Ken McMullen is also frustrated.
Crews from four different districts were attending to a fire caused when massive piles of rubbish were set ablaze at Thorlakson Feedyards near Airdrie, some distance away.
"Our response was significantly delayed given all apparatus was tending to a garbage fire," McMullen said.
The feed company had a burn permit, but some of what they were burning -- including plastics, wood and garbage -- was illegal and unattended.
"Within five minutes we were dispatched to the Beiseker call, and it was half-way across the county," McMullen said.
Had resources not been tied up at the feedlot, response to the Hixt ranch would have been about 8 to 12 minutes.
"It angers me," he said.
"If that had been house with people in it, the outcome could have been devastating."
Items from the Grand Ole Ranch have been rented as props for movies like Brokeback Mountain, Shanghai Noon and other westerns.
Beiseker is about 75 km northeast of Calgary.