Wildfires take a toll in Colo., Kan., Okla., and Texas | TheFencePost.com
Rachel Spencer
For The Fence Post

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Wildfires take a toll in Colo., Kan., Okla., and Texas

With approximately 30,000 acres burned in Logan and Phillips counties in the northeast corner of Colorado, the impact on agricultural producers is devastating as it is slowly calculated through the blowing dirt and ash. The fire is now contained, with the exception of hay stacks that ranchers are using loaders to spread and extinguish.

The majority of fences have been burned and many wires cut to allow livestock to move to safety. According to Julie Kokes, local cattlemen spent March 7 ensuring a perimeter fence is in place, counting cattle, and moving injured cattle to a different area. Large animal veterinarians were in the area to provide care or humanely euthanize seriously injured animals.

"These people are going to need help," said Kent Kokes, the past President of the Northeast Colorado Cattlemen's Association. "There was a lot of loss. Not only did people lose their homes, but ranchers have lost their livestock, infrastructures and equipment. There is so much dust and dirt in the area that plows are shoveling it off the roads like snow," Kokes continued.

Kokes' wife, Julie, is coordinating efforts to gather livestock related donations. The Northeast Colorado Cattlemen's Association has partnered with Colorado Farm Bureau's Disaster Relief Fund to accept monetary donations.

Dan Firme, a farmer and rancher north of Haxtun who serves on the fire department, answered the call and began fighting the fire March 6 when it started near Proctor. The fire moved quickly toward Haxtun southeast through the Sandhills.

"When we were fighting (the fire), they said they were stationing water at my brother's house on our farm north of Haxtun," he said. Firme then switched places with other firefighters and began working on his family farm to combat the fast-moving flames.

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"Then it got here," he said. The wind, paired with dry conditions, made fighting the fire more difficult. The fire comes at a bad time for cattle producers as most are about to begin calving or already have calves on the ground.

At his own home on the farm, his entire hay supply was lost, some trailers, and some personal items he said are of little significance when compared to the losses of others. They were able to save their home but did lose four calves.

"My cousin two miles east lost everything," he said. "He lost the house, the shop, the semi, tractor, planter, pickups, loaders. He lost it all."

Another neighbor in the fire's path lost somewhere between 90 and 100 cow calf pairs.

MONITORING HOT SPOTS

According to the Phillips County Office of Emergency Management, even with full containment, strike teams will continue to monitor hot spots including hay stacks, fenceposts and trees. Damage estimates are being compiled. In Phillips County, one house was lost and another damaged while in Logan County, three homes and several outbuildings are reported as losses. Initial cattle losses are at 195 head.

As is common in rural areas, local individuals and businesses have answered the call for donations and assistance. Home Depot, CHS/Grainland, Cargill/Nutrena, Colorado Cattlemen's Association, Pro Till, in addition to a number of local restaurants are among the donors recognized.

Colorado Cattlemen's Association and the Northeast Colorado Cattlemen's Association are initially focusing on the immediate need for hay, feed and fencing supplies; as well as individuals willing to provide trucking, etc. for the farmers and ranchers devastated by fires. Donations should be taken to CHS Grainland in Haxtun, Colo., A loader and scale are both available, if needed. Contact Rick Unrein at (970) 520-3565 for more information about dropping off donations. Donations can also be dropped off at Justin Price's farm (11222 CR 7 Sedgwick, CO). For more information about how to help, please contact: Kent Kokes (970) 580-8109 John Michal (970) 522-2330 Justin Price (970) 580-6315 or Dan Firme (970) 520-0949. Monetary donations can be made by visiting Colorado Farm Bureau's website at http://coloradofarmbureau.com/disasterfund/.

KANSAS FIRES

In southwest Kansas, acres burning have eclipsed the number of acres burned in a single fire in recent history. In Clark and Comanche Counties, over 500,000 acres have burned. According to the Kansas Division of Emergency Management, the acres burned in Clark County comprise 85 percent of that county. Burned acres in Kansas total over 650,000 acres currently.

Bill Broadie, a rancher in Ashland, Kan., minced no words about the fires in his part of southwest Kansas.

"I've been to some bad places," he said. "But this was the worst. I think a fire fight in Vietnam was better than this, this was scary."

Broadie and his son, Barrett, both ranch in the area and think they lost calves but it's too early to tell. Both men were able to save their buildings but the younger Broadie lost a significant amount of grass and fence.

Despite the destruction, Broadie is impressed with the response from surrounding areas. He noted trucks and crews from Kansas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Texas and others.

"The first night we didn't have the cavalry there," he said. "It sounds like over 30 homes were lost."

As in other areas, neighbors are quick to help. The Wallace County Wildcats basketball team will be facing Ashland in the first round of state basketball play. The Wildcats and the local Farm Credit office are gathering donations to deliver to the Ashland administration at the state tournament.

"It makes you pretty proud of rural America," Broadie said. "Even those who weren't fighting fire — like the church ladies feeding all of the volunteers, are little things that are pretty big."

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has declared a State of Emergency as ground crews and helicopters fight fires burning in five western counties.

In Texas, multiple fires have ravaged pasture, homes, and cattle and six people have been reportedly killed in that state. Fires have claimed over 325,000 acres and the livestock toll is only beginning to be tallied as producers are able to return to their properties and locate cattle displaced by the flames.

According to the state's Forestry Service, Oklahoma has lost 400,000 acres and 22 counties have been declared under a state of emergency.

LINCOLN, Neb. – As fires blaze across Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado fellow cattlemen and women are battling to save their livelihoods. Fire relief funds have been set up for each area in the wake of the devastating fires. Currently there is a need for fencing supplies, feed, hay and trucking services. If you are able to help please see below, a list of how to donate to each area being affected. Please continue to say a prayer for those being affected.

KANSAS

Kansas Livestock Association is organizing hay and fencing material donations for delivery to affected areas in Kansas. To make in-kind donations, call KLA at (785) 273-5115. Cash donations can be made through the Kansas Livestock Foundation, KLA’s charitable arm, by going to http://www.kla.org/donationform.aspx.

COLORADO

There is an immediate need for hay, feed, fencing supplies, individuals willing to provide trucking, etc. for the farmers and ranchers devastated by yesterday’s fires. Donations should be taken to CHS Grainland in Haxtun. A loader and scale are both available, if needed. Contact Rick Unrein (970) 520-3565 for more information about dropping off donations. Donations can also be dropped off at Justin Price’s farm (11222 CR 7 Sedgwick, CO). For more information, please contact: Kent Kokes (970) 580-8108, John Michal (970) 522-2330, or Justin Price (970) 580-6315.

OKLAHOMA

If you would like to donate to this relief effort, you can do so by mail or online. Make checks payable to Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Foundation and put “Fire Relief” in the memo line and send to P.O. Box 82395, Oklahoma City, OK 73148. To donate online, visit http://www.okcattlemen.org. If you would like to donate hay or trucking services for hay, you can do so by contacting either the Harper County Extension Office at (580) 735-2252 or Buffalo Feeders at (580) 727-5530 to make arrangements or provide trucking services.

TEXAS

Multiple fires in the Texas Panhandle have burned more than 400,000 acres. As part of a coordinated response with multiple state agencies and emergency managers, Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association is soliciting hay donations. Two supply points have been established to collect donated hay. Each has been listed below. If you have hay that you can donate and transport to either supply point, please contact the location directly prior to transportation.

Supply Point 1

202 West Main

Lipscomb, Texas

Contact: J.R. Spragg

Office: (806) 862-4601

Supply Point 2

301 Ball Park Drive, Pampa, Texas

Contact: Mike Jeffcoat

Office: (806) 669-8033

As more information becomes available Nebraska Cattlemen will keep people updated via social and media outlets. We are truly grateful for any efforts put forth by NC members to help our friends during this troubled time

Nebraska Cattlemen