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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Bo Rader / The Wichita Eagle

A new law passed by the Kansas Legislature could allow Kansas to share firefighting resources with neighboring states like Oklahoma.

As The Wichita Eagle  reports, HB 2140 has already been approved by the House and the Senate, and is now waiting for Governor Sam Brownback’s signature. Similar proposals have languished in Kansas for two years, and the sharing capability would have been helpful this month as the biggest fires in state history raged across the High Plains.

Lindsey Bauman / Kansas Agland

From Kansas Agland:

Some students in Ashland are spending their spring break tearing out burned-up fences as their family and friends deal with the aftermath of the state’s largest wildfire.

It’s not known yet just how many miles of fence line will need to be replaced, but on the Gardiner Ranch, it could be at least 300.

That’s about the distance from Hutchinson to Topeka and back again.

Lt. Seth Frizzell / Holcomb Community Fire Department

Many scientists believe there will be more and more days of weather that puts Kansas at risk of wildfires.

As The Wichita Eagle reports, although scientists can’t attribute any particular weather event to climate change, the extreme weather the past two years in Kansas is consistent with climate change models, says Mike Flannigan, professor of wildland fire at the University of Alberta in Canada.

Courtesy / Seward County

Much-needed rain, along with a community effort by farmers and area fire departments helped control another Kansas wildfire that broke out in Seward County on Thursday.

The 2,500-acre fire is now contained, according to a post by Seward County Fire Chief Andrew Barkley. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Seward County Fire Rescue responded to a grass fire at about 5 p.m. in the area of Road P and Highway 54.

Brownback signs sales tax break for fence-rebuilding

Mar 24, 2017
Mary Clarkin / The Hutchinson News

TOPEKA – Gov. Sam Brownback signed a bill Wednesday granting a sales tax exemption for rural fencing supplies and services purchased by wildfire victims.

“It doesn’t make up for what they’ve lost, but it’s a way that we can help ease the recovery for hardworking farmers and ranchers,” Brownback said at an afternoon ceremony in the Statehouse.

Lindsey Bauman

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Tuesday that more than $6 million in funding is now available for those affected by the wildfires in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

The funding, delivered through USDA’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program, will assist farmers and ranchers as they attempt to restore grazing lands, rehabilitate devastated landscapes, rebuild fencing and protect damaged watersheds, according to a news release.

Update: Fence rebuilding bill clears Legislature

Mar 20, 2017

Burned fencing lines U.S. 160 near Ashland on Thursday, March 9, 2017 following the March 6 wildfires in Clark County.Credit Lindsey Bauman / The Hutchinson NewsEdit | Remove

TOPEKA – A bill offering a state sales tax exemption on supplies and services to rebuild fences damaged by 2016 and 2017 wildfires cleared the Legislature on Friday morning.