wildfires

Patrick Feller / Flickr Creative Commons

The Texas Panhandle has seen a high number of wildfires in recent years, as climate change and drought take their toll. Last year alone, grass fires in Potter, Gray, Wheeler and other Panhandle counties burned more than half a million acres and killed four people.  

Now, as The Texas Observer reports, that problem may be about to get worse. Experts say a federal initiative called the Conservation Reserve Program has exacerbated the fire risk.

CC0 Creative Commons

The month of May has long been considered the start of Colorado’s wildfire season so first responders, the insurance industry and government officials are warning homeowners to plan ahead.

As Colorado Public Radio reports, the forest service recommends maintaining 100 to 200 feet between thin standing trees and structures; to mow standing grass to less than six inches; and to remove flammable vegetation within 15 feet of homes.

Bob McMillan / Wikimedia Commons

In late April, fires raged across the Oklahoma landscape, devastating farming communities.

And as The New York Times reports, relief bales of hay began arriving before the flames were even quenched. The hay is a much-needed respite for farmers and ranchers in the Sooner State, with the cylindrical bales serving as a way to feed cattle who have found themselves in a charred and bleak landscape.

Oklahoma Forestry Service

Weekend showers over Oklahoma helped firefighters in the battle against two large wildfires – one of which was so large that it could be seen from space.

As The High Plains Journal reports, as of Monday, the Rhea fire in Dewey County had scorched around 287,000 acres and the 34 Complex fire in Woodward County had burned close to 63,000 acres. The Rhea fire was 74 percent contained and the 34 Complex fire was 94 percent contained.

woodleywonderworks / Flickr Creative Commons

Wildfires erupted across Western Oklahoma again on Wednesday.

As The High Plains Journal reports, nearly 325,000 Acres had burned and were still burning as of Wednesday afternoon. This includes 68,000 acres in Woodward County and nearly a quarter of a million acres in Dewey County.

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Wildfires ravaged much of Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle this weekend.

As KFOR reports, fire crews from neighboring states like Louisiana and Arkansas—and as far away as Florida—sped toward the Sooner State and the Lone Star State to try to quell the blazes. Hundreds of thousands of acres burned, including 7,000 acres in Wheeler County, and at least one life was lost in the Oklahoma fires.

From Texas Standard.

One of the staples of elementary school library shelves across Texas is Hank the Cowdog – the dog who fancies himself the “head of ranch security” at the M-Cross Ranch in the Panhandle. Since 1983, Hank has solved mysteries, fended off coyotes, and pined for the affection of the ranch’s collie, Beulah.

Jonathan Baker

Several fires burned throughout the Texas Panhandle this weekend, on a Sunday that was windy even by West Texas standards. One fire near the northwest loop of Amarillo ultimately burned 400 acres of grassland before being conquered by firefighters from Potter County Fire, the Texas A&M Forest Service, and the Amarillo Street Department.

Kansas Fire Service

State officials said yesterday that the recent rain helped emergency responders across Kansas put out the latest wave of wildfires. Sixty-two wildland fires burned more than 17,000 acres between March 14th and 18th. The wildfires initially broke out in Rice county but were followed by fires in eight other counties -- including Barber and Reno, which were affected by fires earlier in March as well.

Update: Texas Panhandle Wildfires

Mar 19, 2018
Texas A&M Forestry Service / tfsgis.tamu.edu/currentfireactivity/

Over the weekend, several fires broke out across the Texas Panhandle.

According to the Texas A&M Forest Service, the County Line fire that started in Hartley County on Thursday and spread into Oldham and Moore counties burned 15,682 acres. It is now 100 percent contained.

The second largest fire, the Old Muddy Road fire, began in Potter County Sunday and burned 4,480 acres as of Monday morning, at which time it was 65 percent contained.

Kansas Highway Patrol

Heavy winds and low humidity yesterday were to blame for several grass fires across the High Plains, including one near Hays, Kansas resulting in the temporary closure of a portion of I-70, as well as one near McCook, Nebraska that prompted evacuations.

As KWCH reported yesterday afternoon, firefighters responded to at least 12 active wildfires across Kansas, after helping extinguish at least 19 fires. At least three fires were reported near Hays, resulting in the partial closure of I-70.  

One year and nearly a half million torched acres after the Starbuck wildfire, strong winds blow across a parched Kansas landscape.

In some ways, last year’s experience showed how man-made systems fell short of handling natural disaster.

As March roars in with another dangerous fire season, lessons from 2017 will be tested and Kansas could learn whether it’s better prepared now.

For the third straight year, Kansans can expect a higher than average danger for wildland fire. 

Oklahoma Forestry Service

Amid an unusually dry winter, counties in Oklahoma have begun issuing burn bans, reports KOKH.

Most of the burn bans are in counties in the eastern part of the state, but Cimarron, Harper, and Alfalfa counties in western Oklahoma have also issued bans. As of Monday, Oklahoma had issued burn bans for 16 counties. Oklahoma hasn’t seen much rain over the past two months.

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Concerns over wildfires are growing in the Texas Panhandle, as the state moves deeper into an unusually dry winter.

As The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports, meteorologists are warning that conditions are once again unusually ripe for fires across the region. The La Nina weather phenomenon is leading forecasters to predict dry, unusually warm weather in Texas—perfect conditions for grass fires.

CCO Creative Commons

The yellow Ag Tractor swooped in low, the wheels maybe 30-feet above the ground, as it approached Taxiway Charlie.

Suddenly, a mass of water gushed from the back of the plane, causing it to jerk quickly upward. Banking its wings, the pilot turned the plane toward the Hutchinson Airport.

Valarie Smith / High Plains Public Radio

A package of bills to improve and reform livestock disaster programs have been introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate, respectively, by Congressman Roger Marshall, R-KS, and Sen. Jerry Moran, R-KS, respectively.

This from the High Plains Journal.

If you pull a fire alarm in any large U.S. city, it's likely that paid firefighters waiting at a nearby station will quickly respond. But seven out of 10 American firefighters are volunteers. They cover vast sections of the country, making up an aging network that is increasingly understaffed and overworked.

Kansas Ranchers Paying It Forward

Sep 10, 2017
Courtesy photo

As smoke from Montana and Wyoming makes its way across the High Plains, Kansas ranchers impacted by wildfires earlier this year are paying it forward.

As The Hutch News reports, six months ago, Clark County rancher Steve Hazen was on the receiving end as truckloads of hay and supplies came from all directions to his hometown of Ashland.

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The Texas Panhandle may be headed for an ecological disaster.

As The Texas Observer reports, the Llano Estacado could be undone by conservation efforts put in place to save the region from the Dust Bowl. At issue is the Texas Panhandle’s natural predilection for encouraging wildfires.

LT. SETH FRIZZELL / HOLCOMB COMMUNITY FIRE DEPARTMENT

Kansas ranchers impacted by wildfires could receive more than $18 million in federal funds for fencing lost in the Starbuck wildfire, which began in Oklahoma and spread into southwest Kansas on March 6.

As The Hutch News reports, the fire burned over 660,000 acres in Kansas and Oklahoma and 500,000 acres in Clark, Comanche and Meade Counties making it the largest in Kansas history.

Valarie Smith / High Plains Public Radio

All Cody Crockett ever wanted to be was a cowboy. And for a short time, he got his wish.
Crockett worked on the 9,000-acre Franklin Ranch, about 70 miles northeast of Amarillo, where on March 6, a massive wildfire broke out.

Cody, his girlfriend Sydney Wallace, and rancher Sloan Everett, were killed while trying to rescue livestock.

Texas Monthly features the trio in an article that also includes photos and video.

Wildfires burned through thousands of acres of Great Plains farm and ranch land in the 1980s. Today, wildfires are likely to char millions of acres.

The Great Plains are seeing more wildfires, according to a new study, leading researchers to ask why the fires are happening, and fire managers to examine what resources they will need to keep the blazes in check.

Valarie Smith / High Plains Public Radio

Wildfires can be started by neglected campfires or cigarette butts. They can ignite from prescribed burns run amok, or launch from lightning strikes.

However they’re caused, Victoria Donovan, a Ph.D. student at the University of Nebraska Lincoln, has been running the numbers to see how often they’re happening.

In a new study, she found a serious uptick in wildfires over the last 30 years across the Plains from Texas to the Dakotas.

LT. SETH FRIZZELL / HOLCOMB COMMUNITY FIRE DEPARTMENT

Areas of south central Kansas ravaged by March 6 wildfires could take decades to rebuild.

As The Wichita Eagle reports, the fire that started March 5 in Oklahoma and spread north at 50 mph burned 600,000 acres in Kansas, making it the largest wildfire in state history.  Area ranchers lost 5,000 cattle and more than 1,000 miles of fencing and most of the ranches suffered more than $1 million in damages, much of it uninsured.

Rain helps fire-damaged grasslands recover in parts of Kansas, Oklahoma

Jun 2, 2017
K-State Research and Extension

ASHLAND – Late spring and early season rains are contributing to what agricultural producers and extension specialists are calling a steady recovery for grasslands ravaged by wildfires earlier this year in southwest Kansas and northwest Oklahoma.

In early March, fires in those regions took out an estimated 660,000 acres of pasture, much of which was used to graze cattle.

“This part of the country has never experienced anything like this before,” said Ashland cattleman Matt Ast.

Valarie Smith / High Plains Public Radio

In an effort to document the March 6 wildfires that burned several hundred thousand acres in the Texas Panhandle, the Hemphill County Library in Canadian is hoping to find people willing to share their experiences with the fires.  

Fire recovery meeting offered in Ashland

May 5, 2017
Sandra J. Milburn / The Hutchinson News

Creating a fire response and recovery plan is the focus of a two-day meeting scheduled May 9-10 in Ashland as the region continues to regroup after a massive spring wildfire.

The workshop will be led by Ranching for Profit owner Dave Pratt, a well-known consultant whose thought-provoking style has helped hundreds of ranchers think through and plan for a more profitable future.

Sandra J. Milburn / The Hutchinson News

ASHLAND - Over the phone, Jenny Giles Betschart gives directions to her makeshift home amid the incinerated plains - describing the residence as the one you shouldn't miss.

"It's the white house with the clutter," she said.

It's the only house left on this section of road. The home, with its paint now peeling from the intense heat of a wildfire, lies at the end of a long sandy drive, damp from several days of downpours. Scaffolding is stacked on a trailer - not far from the new picnic tables made by the FFA - waiting to be used to put new siding on the house.

Michael Pearce / The Wichita Eagle

After record-breaking wildfires late last month, Kansas saw another record broken on Saturday.

As The Wichita Eagle reports, southwest Kansas shattered the rainfall record for April first, according to the National Weather Service.

The original record of 1.2 inches had already been broken by six a.m., and the rain kept on coming. By day’s end, Dodge City reported receiving over double the original record, with a total of almost two-and-a-half inches.

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