2,000,000 Acres: A Brief Look into the Massive Kansas Wildfire of 2017

‘A Perfect Storm’ could have a different variety of meaning to it considering the context of the phrase. It could mean very good outcomes such as being in the right place, at the exact right time. Or, on the flip side, it could also mean very bad outcomes that might result in maybe a bad day at the office or something along those lines. In this case the outcomes were borderline unfathomable, and you probably haven’t heard about it until now. Honestly the only reason I heard about this event was due to the farm my mother works at sent semi loads of feed and supplies to Kansas in order to do their part to help the families and animals that were affected by this terrible event.

Ashland County, Kansas in March of 2017 experienced the largest wildfire in state history and I am willing to bet a majority of you reading hasn’t heard about it until now, to me this is an issue. How can a wildfire that burned through hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland in the heart of our nation go unnoticed? Here is what happened, here is the story of the landowners who saw their livelihood burnt to the ground… and here is the story of the countless Americans from across the nation who sent help to a community in need.

Why mention a perfect storm in an article about wildfires in Kansas you ask? Experts across the country are claiming that there was indeed a ‘perfect storm’ of events that lead to this massive wildfire that stretched three states within the United States with the most damage being dealt to the heart of our nation. An abnormally wet summer in 2016 combined with a very dry winter in 2017 spelled disaster in late March as winds picked up pushing the dry, hot air across the dying grasslands that stretch for a majority of the land area in Kansas. According to climate.gov winds reaching upwards to 70mph spread the fire throughout the middle of the U.S and fires were jumping as far as a quarter mile across the flat grasslands. This left farmers and ranchers with little to no time to prepare for the ensuing flames approaching their land rather quickly.

The fire started in the panhandle of Northern Texas and quickly spread throughout

Kansas Wildfire Map
Photo Source

Oklahoma and into Kansas scorching more than 2 million acres of plains. Not only did the fire claim the lives of at least seven people, but also countless animals grazing the grasslands faced walls of flames on every side and majorities were eventually burnt to death. Most farmers who lost their life did so in an attempt to save their animals that were engulfed by the flames. The largest group of fires combined on the Oklahoma/Kansas border and burnt through an area of over 400,000 acres, which is the largest wildfire in recorded history for the state of Kansas.

 

Around 90% of the cattle that were grazing in the affected area were either killed by the flames or had to be put down due to the injuries they received from the flames. Those who survived face a new challenge, finding food. Even with the help of the ranchers and farmers who own the cattle, there is little to no grass left for the cows to feed on since a majority of it was burned up in the fire.

kansas fire cow
Photo Source

This is where relief help from farmers and communities across the nation comes into play. The farm that my mother works at heard the news of the fire, and one of the sons whom works on the farm had a thousands of pounds of feed loaded up onto a semi and he hit the road around 6 am in order to make the drive from Ohio to Kansas. Once he returned home from the journey he recalls driving over a hill near where the fires have occurred and seeing nothing but scorched earth and desolation and had to pull over on the side of the road in order to take in the severity of the situation.

 

Many farmers lost everything, their land, their livestock, and their way of life. The New York Times tells the story of a couple who have spent the past 30 years of their lives maintaining over one million acres of land and in a matter of a few days lost it all to the Kansas Wildfire of 2017. As a farmer, it may be hard to accept handouts but many across the affected areas are faced with no other choice to accept the help of thousands of people throughout the nation.

The worst part of the situation to me is the little amount of media coverage and aid that the people of Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas are receiving. People in our own country need help and mainstream media, the very best way in this country to spread news as quickly as possible, has been next to silent.

usdroughtmonitor-weekly-ndmc--620x464--2017-03-14
Photo Source

Considering the fact that a good majority of these three states have been burnt to a crisp in one of the largest fires in recent history within the area, you think that more people would be aware of the situation at hand. Think about it, more people that know results in more people willing to help out their fellow Americans in need. Although it is sad to see such a terrible event take place, I find it comforting knowing that so many people are willing to jump up to the call of duty and help their neighbors in need.

 

To this, I say kudos. Kudos to the men and woman of this country that still believe in the fundamentals that this country was founded on. If your neighbor is in need of help, you know for a fact that neighbor will receive help from the farming community. It is what this nation was built on; they stand for character, integrity and doing the right thing day in and day out. They are the reason you are able to put food on the table at night, and the reason you are able to have the relatively easy access to food (in most parts of the country) that we are blessed with within our borders. So next time you see a farmer working hard at the crack of dawn or as the sun goes down, thank them. Thank them for all the work they put in day in and day out in order to supply food and wellbeing for this great country that many of us call home.

Sources:

https://www.climate.gov/news-features/event-tracker/late-winter-wildfires-burn-through-texas-oklahoma-and-kansas-march-2017

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2017/03/24/kansas-cattle-ranchers-struggle-to-recover-from-devastating-prairie-fires.html

http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/08/us/kansas-wildfires-livestock-lost/

Wildfires in Oklahoma and Texas burn nearly 1 million acres, killing 7

Header Image:

https://watchers.news/2017/03/07/wildfire-texas-kansas-oklahoma-colorado-march-2017/

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