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Burstall bouncing back with young entrepreneur


The gas plant on the highway located between Empress and Burstall has been one of the sources of Burstall’s economy.


Photo contributed By Tim Kalinowski


Burstall is a fascinating oddity. The community of 300, on the hinterlands of the border of Saskatchewan and Alberta west of Leader, has a cobbled together quality about it.


The streets were designed during the horse and carriage era of the early 20th century and many of the original false storefronts of that time still exist on main street.


However unlike other communities which have streamlined their streets to reflect the rise of the automobile, or proudly celebrate their pioneer heritage by featuring those false storefronts prominently, Burstall has simply paved the carriage streets over keeping the original design and put new plaster over the brick storefronts. And mixed amongst the false storefronts, newer pre- fab buildings add another strange note to the cacophony.


Just by looking at these streets and structures, the observer can tell instantly Burstall has had a weird history.


Founded by German settlers, Burstall has always been one of those communities in between things: In between cultures, in between eras, in between prosperity and despair, and in between far flung townships like Leader, Medicine Hat, Oyen and Schuler. And despite the odds against it, Burstall still somehow remains a vital community with a K-8 school and some newer residential homes being built in the area. It also has a swimming pool, a local arena and many other amenities of small town life in Saskatchewan.


But one thing it didn’t have, at least for six months last year after the former owner shut down and retired, was a local gas station.


12 SOUTHWEST PROGRESS REPORT 2013


Lance Wenzel, 23, enjoys living in small town Saskatchewan, he operates a business which is critical to the community.


Photos by Tim Kalinowski


To fully appreciate the problem this posed to the community first one has to take into account the geography. Burstall is 66 km away from the next nearest town with a gas station in a sparsely populated rural area. Its Empress area gas plants employ 300 people with heavy industrial traffic coming through town all the time. The TransCanada pipeline also passes close to the community adding another industrial layer to the mix. So there is a high demand for fuel in the area.


After the old gas station shut down, residents were having to make a weekly fuel trip down the road to either Richmound or Leader burning up a quarter of a tank of gas just to get gas. This added to the suffering of a community which is already feeling the pinch with its natural gas plants operating at reduced capacity due to low prices. Even die hard residents who had


held on through various downswings and reversals began to proclaim on coffee row they were thinking of moving away from the community. The Great Burstall Fuel Crisis had begun.


Enter an unlikely hero in 22 year old Lance Wenzel.


Wenzel went to Medicine Hat College for a few years, but that was enough of the big city life for him. When a good job opened up at the gas plant in his old home town, Wenzel jumped at the opportunity.


“I like living in Burstall,” explains Wenzel. “For a town our size, if you like the rural lifestyle, there’s tons to do in Burstall.”


Hearing this distressing talk about long-time residents thinking about picking up and leaving, Wenzel got to seriously thinking about what could


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