KANSAS — Emergency crews continue to monitor a wildfire that is largely contained after it burned hundreds of miles of rangeland in Kansas and Oklahoma.
The Anderson creek fire south of the Kansas border and in north Oklahoma has burned at least 574 square miles of pasture and farmland. The majority of those miles occurring in Barber County.
“This will have a devastating impact on a lot of the rural communities that rely on farmers and ranchers in that area,” says Agriculture Expert, John Jenkinson.
More than 19% of the jobs in Barber County come from agriculture. The majority of those jobs coming from the cattle ranching and farming industry. — There are 46,000 cattle in Barber County alone.
“Last week we traded cattle at $133 per 100 pounds,” Jenkinson said. “You can do the math and find out real quickly that this is going to really get into the hundreds, thousands, and millions dollars.”
Rancher, David Johnson, lost about $150,000 in cattle. He lost about 50 cows and 50 calves.
Johnson said he had to ship off 37 cows to a local packing plant and shot 35 calves because they were so severely burned.
“Their backs were burnt and their feet were burnt,” Johnson said. “The shell on their foot started to shuffle off after they’ve been burnt.”
And it’s not just the loss of livestock, but the significant damage caused to the rangeland.
A similar wildfire, the Soda Fire along the Oregon and Idaho border in August 2015 caused long-term damage. The Idaho Farm Bureau predicting two to three years for the rangeland to heal.
The same thing will happen in South Kansas.
“It may take one or two growing seasons for that land to be as productive as it once was,” said Josh Roe, Assistant Secretary of Agriculture for the Kansas Department of Agriculture.
That means the land is off limits to cows, forcing ranchers to find another way to feed their cattle.
The Federal Fire Management Assistance Grant given to Barber and Comanche County will not go to the ranchers and farmers in those areas. It will help with public infrastructure and cost incurred by those counties.
The United States Department of Agriculture will help ranchers with damage costs and cattle loss caused by the fire.