Washington County sends helpWildfires devastate farms in western states
While many people who are helping to raise items to aid rural farming communities in Colorado, Kansas, Texas and Oklahoma feel the devastation caused by grass fires is underreported in the national media, producers in Washington County are coming together to prove no farmers will be left behind.
What began as a discussion on social media last Friday regarding the aftermath of a series of wildfires that left six dead, forced hundreds from their homes, and destroyed thousands of acres of farmland led to a group in Washington County deciding to do what they could to aid the victims of the fires. Washington County residents Carol Horning and Megan Coakley learned just how severe the devastation was as they communicated online with mutual friend and former Washington County resident Sarah Hess, who now lives in Kansas.
“I kept seeing all these pictures of fires and the devastation of not only houses and barns burning and the animals,” Coakley said. “It was just heartbreaking.”
The images also stirred the question of what could be done. Horning and Coakley began to wonder if they could get a load of hay to the people in the area. As cattle farmers, Coakley and Horning both understood the devastation that is caused from the loss of a spread, as well as animals. The message also resonated with many other producers in the area. She said others had become involved in the discussion on social media and also wanted to become involved.
The impromptu group that formed from the discussions will send about 10 semi loads of hay, along with many other supplies including fencing materials. Donations will be trucked to Ashland Feed and Seed, in Ashland, Kansas. Additionally, on Friday a box trailer will leave to take fencing material to Kansas.
Among the people donating the use of semis are Jerome Vittetoe and Andy Eichelberger. Vittetoe on a social media post stated the people of this area will “never leave a wounded farmer behind.”
“There is such a need for this,” Coakley said. “It isn’t really on the news and we are not sure why.”
Local news sources from the affected areas have reported over a million cows had been killed. In Kansas, over 650,000 acres were burned in the wildfires. According to KOCO in Oklahoma today, the wildfires are about 42 percent contained and the area remains in high risk for fires. Temperatures in the area are reported in the 80s, with low humidity and high winds. In all, over 1,500 square miles of land has been reported burned. A suspected cause of the fire has not been released.
There have been news reports on the fires on NBC and CNN over a week ago, according to a Google search.
Coakley said that people who wish to donate supplies could do so at Vision Ag on Highway 92 in Ainsworth. Fencing supplies, even used, can be donated. She said that such things as milk, vitamins and minerals could be purchased at the store as well to donate. Monetary donations are also being accepted, which will be used to purchase supplies.
“Carol talked to the guy down there and he told her monetary donates are great, but they are not able to get any supplies for hundreds of miles,” Coakley said. “If we can purchase the things and get them down there, that is what they would like to see.”
The group has talked with many people in the area who had not been aware of the fires and who immediately asked what they could do.