Fire on the Prairie

Fire—it is a powerful element in our world. We use it to control things here in Kansas like the prairie. But anywhere where water has been in short supply, it can be dangerous. Across Turtle Island fires used to start by lightning. Now we have them start by man. I have witnessed massive fires that destroyed a half a million acres of forest. Forest takes a long time to re-grow.  When I was a girl there was a fire on our drive up to our Cabin in Northern Arizona. I am now 49 and it has still not grown back to what it was. Time. It takes a lot of time.

So here on Saturday we had a fire start not far from our farm. We have had very little moisture and the wind was very strong—in the 35 to 45 mph range. With dry grass and trees and wind like that there is very little to stop flames. We were at a friend’s farm and saw the smoke so I jumped in my truck and drove to see where it was. There is a lot of animals in barns and pastures between us and the smoke and the wind was coming right in our direction. Not good. It was several miles away but it was moving very, very fast.

One fire truck, then the call for more and then a call for more again. Several communities in the area sent their volunteer crews. In a few minutes it had raged across a pasture and hit a tree line of Hedge trees—Osage orange is another name for them. Then it jumped a road. There were several of us watching and passing the information on to the firefighters. Then it jumped again. It went across two giant pastures—over 80 acres never catching anything on fire but then landing on a hill and burning a barn and raging forward. Finally it was stopped.

It is upsetting to see tourists driving around when we know the people who own the land and are trying to help in the only way we can. But these people are aggravating! And in this case dangerous!

The hedge trees glowed in the night, the wind sending sparks like popcorn into the sky. Hedge is notorious for throwing sparks. You hope and pray that they do not catch anything else on fire during the night. All those trees died. Hedge was planted to stop erosion—to undo the damage of the Dust Bowl days. Now they are gone. Habitat for birds and wildlife, they are no longer there. Many corporate farmers are taking out the Hedge rows—more area to plant in. They forget, like so many why they are there and just how important they are to keeping the soil here.

So the Fire came to visit—started, it is believed, by a train driving by. Goodbye trees.



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