12 hawks, owls killed in fire at Strathcona County bird rescue shelter

A local bird and rescue rehabilitation centre is looking to rebuild after a Wednesday fire killed a dozen hawks and owls.

Karl Grantmyre, executive director of the Alberta Society for Injured Birds of Prey, located at Range Road 222 near Sherwood Park, said the fire leveled a 100-metre long hawk house, used to shelter orphaned and injured raptors.

The fire started just before noon on Wednesday, Grantmyre said, and the building went up in flames quickly.

“There was electricity in it … but the wiring and everything was 50 years old. It was 50-year-old wood, the windows were all open … and once it got started, it burned hot and it burned fast,” said Grantmyre.

There were 14 birds living in the building — including horned owls, Ferruginous hawks, red-tail hawks, Swainson’s hawks and broad-winged hawks. Two horned owls were able to escape the blaze, Grantmyre said, but one carcass was found and 11 of the birds are unaccounted for.

“Some of the birds were unreleasable, but there were a number of hawks we were hoping to release in the spring,” he said.

An attached aviary suffered a bit of fire damage as well, but all five eagles living inside were uninjured.

A fire at the Alberta Society for Injured Birds of Prey near Sherwood Park killed a number of rescued birds and destroyed a hawk house on Wednesday January 17, 2018. (GoFundMe)

Fire crews were called to the area at 11:49 a.m. and arrived on scene at 12:03 p.m.. Three tankers, one fire engine and 16 firefighters arrived to find the structure “heavily involved,” said Vern Elliott, deputy fire chief with Strathcona County Emergency Services.

The fire was declared officially out by 2:23 p.m.. Elliott said the cause of the fire has not yet been determined.

“I don’t know if we’ll ever get to an actual confirmed (cause),” said Elliott. 

‘We can always rebuild’

The rescue group launched a $50,000 online fundraising campaign to try to rebuild the 40-bird capacity hawk house.

“The big loss here are the birds. That’s the serious part of all of this,” said Grantmyre. “The building is a 50-year-old building — we can always rebuild. But the birds — that’s harsh. There are a lot of people who helped look after those birds and put a lot of time in them and have an attachment to them.”

The Alberta Society for Injured Birds of Prey was founded in 1987 to promote the health and welfare of birds of prey.