It is the time of year when we burn here in Kansas. I hear that the smoke travels all the way up to Chicago, causing more smog for them. For the months of March and April the air is almost always smoke filled around here. It burns your throat and wrecks havoc with your sinuses, but it is what they do here. Nothing will probably change it. As I coughed and felt ucky with the smoke so thick in the air I thought of people in other parts of the world that breath air worse than that almost every day. City people with millions of people sharing the same dirty air. When I think of that I am thankful that I only have to endure it for two months of the year. How blessed we are to usually have good clean air.
This year has been challenging with the burn patterns. The wind has been fierce—way stronger than normal and changing directions often. We had at least one fire in Southern Kansas that was the largest on record in the state—over 500,000 acres and the fire started in Oklahoma. I’m not even sure that fire is out yet and it has been going since before Easter. A huge mess for the ranchers down there, but in true Kansas fashion semis of round hay bales from an extra good hay year last year were donated to the ranchers. Bags of Milk replacer for calves as udders on mammas were burned and the babies were unable to nurse. That is if they could even find their herds as fences burned and cattle ran. We have had several fires around us that were started by unknown origins. The wind racing them across pastures faster than the fireman can drive to get ahead of them. We use volunteer firefighters in this part of the country. What wonderful men and women! So today the fire was set intentionally across from my farm to burn a prairie conservation area. They do it every 3 or 4 years. They had the field prepped more than a month ago—waiting for the winds to stop enough to light it. Fourteen miles an hour is a good burn wind, anything above that is a disaster waiting to happen. They were very good and burned on a still morning, but it would not burn fast. By 12 noon it was still crawling along. Finally it took and the whole field—at least 160 acres, burned in minutes. But by then the wind had picked up and soon by 1:30pm a fire had broken out in the east hedge row. They fought it with water tanks and tractors, moving debris so that it could not burn. It is now 7:30pm and the wind is even stronger and they are still there fighting the fringe fires with chain saws and water. There is a field to the east that is dry grass and it would go fast and far if it got lit. At 8:30pm the sun is almost down and they are still working! They had to cut down a dozen or so trees that are over 50 years old to stop the burning. How sad to see them go.
Fire is not something to joke about or laugh at, even on the prairie. Just grass does not mean it is easier to control than a forest fire. It can move fast and today the flames were well over house high in seconds. And with gusts in the 30-50 mile an hour range, like they had in the last month, it is almost impossible to get ahead of. So thankful for all those volunteers who have worked so hard this past two months. They are surely exhausted! But for me my fears are over as the fire across the street is over. No more worrying that they might not be so good at their job and the fire would take my property. When you have 26 goats in the barn and most of them babies, they are not easy to move in a hurry. A sigh of relief for us at least, and prayers still going out to those who are still in danger or lost everything this Spring in the fires that rage on the Prairie.