Help is coming and is here – where the prairie is singed to the earth – and at all hours.
Jeff Kay was up at 2 a.m. Monday to help unload a couple of trucks carrying hay for ranchers affected by the Clark County wildfires.
“It’s unbelievable the way the farming and ranching community has come together,” said Kay, who operates Ashland Feed and Seed. “There are donations coming from all over the world.”
The fire had barely been put out when the first trucks rolled into town with hay. And the momentum continues – one after another heading down the highway to the county-seat town of 800 people.
In fact, there is so much hay, Kay is asking folks to hold off for at least a week or two so they can assess the needs again at that time.
But there are other needs – fencing, fencing supplies and monetary – that need to be met, said Allison Kuhns, the county’s fire spokeswoman and the Clark County Attorney.
“We are in desperate need of fencing supplies and monetary donations for the long term,” she said.
About 450,000 acres have now burned in Clark County, Kuhns said. Structure losses have increased, according to tabulations by the Red Cross and the appraiser’s office.
Kuhns said 31 homes have been lost and six homes have been damaged. Another 108 outbuildings have been destroyed and 13 more damaged.
Ashland veterinarian Randall Spare estimated last week that anywhere from 3,000 to 9,000 cattle died from the fire.
The cost of the fire will reach into the tens of millions of dollars, said Kuhns.
At present, the fire is 95 percent contained, she said, but she noted officials are concerned about a flare-up with the dry conditions and winds.
“Mostly, we have shifted to rebuilding,” said Kuhns. “We have been completely overwhelmed by all the support we have seen.
“Every time I see a truckload of hay, I’m so touched. So many people have taken time out of their day to help us,” she said. “It’s amazing. We have literally help coming from all over the country.”
It’s just what the agriculture community does in times of need: They help out their fellow producers. Colby Harner, a Reno County rancher and president of the Reno County Cattlemen’s Association, said he has two truckloads of hay put together and will load a third one if anyone has hay to donate in the area.
He said he will hold off shipping it for now, until the area needs it.
On Friday, Fairleigh Feedyard employee Lonnie Barnes had traveled two hours and 30 minutes to Ashland to haul a load of large square bales, and he planned to make two more trips the next day. He pulled over at the local convenience store searching for Gardiner Angus Ranch, where 500 head of cattle perished in the blaze.
Meanwhile, Kuhns said Meade County 4-H’ers are lending a hand, too, by bottle-feeding baby calves. Last week, local residents manned the high school, providing meals a couple of times a day for the community.
The news of the fire has touched many. An Alabama woman called The News on Monday, wanting to donate pastureland to the cause.
Kay noted the logistics wouldn’t work, but the support for so many has been moving.
He said prayers for rain are welcome, too.
“If anyone has a line to Mother Nature, call her and tell her to come to Ashland and help us out,” he said.