Ranchers rebuilding after loss from fires earlier this year

Ranchers start to rebuild months after devastating grass fires. Courtesy KSN News

CLARK COUNTY, Kan. (KSNW) – It’s been three months since huge grass fires swept through southwest Kansas, charring tens of thousands of acres and killing scores of cattle.

Garth Gardiner, like so many ranchers in Clark County, is still working to recover.

“We lost 570 cows,” said Gardiner. “We have a 50,000 acre ranch and we probably lost 42,000 acres of that.”

Another big loss for Gardiner, as well as others, was fencing.

Gardiner said he lost around 250 miles of fences. He’s already replaced about 40 miles, this time with metal poles instead of wood, but each mile of fence costs about $10,000 to replace. Government programs will reimburse ranchers for some of those costs, but it’s still a huge burden for ranchers.

“In some cases that might take six to eight months to a year to get that money back,” said Gardiner.

He also said an expedited reimbursement process would go a long way to help.

“From a cash flow standpoint, I know a lot of businesses in this county, a lot of ranchers and farmers in the county that didn’t necessarily have that in their budget,” said Gardiner.

A clear sign of recovery is how quickly the grass has grown. Now, thanks to recent rains and relatively low temperatures, a lot of land in Clark County is ready for grazing again.

Gardiner said he was touched by the countless volunteers, mostly strangers, who came from across the country to pitch in.

“If I was to represent our community, just give a sincere heartfelt thank you to everyone who came out and helped,” added Gardiner.

With the time and money it takes to replace miles and miles of fencing, some ranchers estimate that a full recovery will take several years.

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