Local farmers dig in to help contain northeast Colorado wildfire

Mar 9, 2017

Credit Joe Amon / The Denver Post

Farmers are being hailed as heroes in the battle against a northeastern Colorado wildfire that broke out Monday.

As The Denver Post reports, as a wildfire fueled by high winds ripped across farm land northeast of Sterling in Logan County and rapidly approached the small town of Haxtun in Phillips County, farmers from the area drove their tractors to dig fire lines to aid a small army of volunteer firefighters.

After spotting smoke Monday, farmer Roland Barkey drove his tractor 12 miles to help out.

“This is what we do, us farmers,” Barkey said. “If you see smoke, you just get your rig and head to it.”

The farmers’ work was critical to containing the huge fire, which by Tuesday had consumed about 30,000 acres and was 80 percent contained.

Tracy Ham, a Haxtun volunteer firefighter said a rural county pulls together to support everyone and help as much as possible.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, the eastern half of Colorado is experiencing drought conditions, which made fighting the fire difficult and required assistance from 120 firefighters and equipment from 15 departments.

Five homes, 15 outbuildings and numerous vehicles, including tractors, were destroyed by the fire, and dozens of head of cattle were killed. The cause of the fire has not yet been determined.

Phillips County Commissioner Joe Kinni said the economic damage to the county would be “phenomenal."

Matt Branch, regional fire management officer for the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control, said March wildfires are not unusual.

“The normal season on the Eastern Plains is this time of year,” he said.

The size of the fire was unusual, however. Local officials called it the fiercest, largest fire they had ever seen.

The Colorado Farm Bureau Foundation has activated its disaster relief fund. Donations can be made online or by mail to Colorado Farm Bureau Foundation, Attn: Disaster Fund, 9177 E. Mineral Circle, Centennial, CO 80112.