Friday, April 1, 2016

After the Fire

   The largest wildfire known to occur in Kansas in recorded history can be considered over except for some minor mopping up activities. After a week of burning over 600 square miles of land in Oklahoma and Kansas, the monster is quieted. Over 130 different fire units from across the state and some in Oklahoma responded. While 16 residences and probably twice that many other structures were destroyed, no one lost their life! This is amazing considering the intensity and speed of this raging firestorm and the ruggedness of the country. While there will be many months to talk about things to come and the lands and ranchers' recoveries, it would be good to look on a bright side. That is the purpose of this post--looking at some of the positive and the beauty of the landscape in the face of such disaster. 

A scorched, lone cedar tree on top of the iconic Flower Pot Mountain of the Red Hills signifies the intensity of this fire. It took a lot of wind and raging fire to reach that. A few remaining cedars on the downslope were screened from the flames.

  A white-tailed deer refreshes in the Salt Fork of the
Arkansas River near Aetna after
 some exciting times.

With the bark of stands of Soapberry tree
exploding off their trunks from the hot fire,
 they stand nearly naked in the ash as if their

pants were ripped off of them.

An interesting and observable landscape is revealed
with the green cedar blanket removed.

On Easter Sunday, the land was favored with over
three inches of snow. Cattle appreciated the
handouts of hay since there's nothing else
to eat.

Hundreds of hay bales were donated from many places
to help ranchers feed their remaining livestock.

The "Black Forest" was formerly green. But it
was essentially a green wasteland. It is now a
blackened wasteland with hopes of major
cedar skeleton removal efforts and a rebirth
of a healthy prairie. 

This is the same "Black Forest" which was
whitened the next day, Easter Sunday.

A normal Red Hills landscape imparts beauty.
Right now, there is black added to the pallet. Soon,
there will be much more green and an
impressive stand of wildflowers.

A herd of Red Angus munching on wheat in the
middle of burned country supplies a
contrasting picture of color to a blackened landscape.
Countless loads of hay were brought in from many
places to help "neighbor" ranchers and their
remaining cattle herds survive the next couple
of months while natural forage emerges.
In just one week since the fire, the prairie grasses
are evident. In a couple more weeks, this landscape
will be mostly green and a beautiful sight.

A walk through a scorched stand of Soapberry (Chinaberry) trees
imparts an eerie sense of a woody graveyard. This is not a bad thing
as Soapberry Trees have become an invasive issue on the prairie
but not as severe as Eastern Redcedar.



  1. Thanks for the commentary and environmental education, Ken.

  2. Great post! My husband, Randy Small, sent me looking for your blog. Glad he did! I'll be sharing with others.

  3. Will the fire prove effective in killing Red Cedars?

  4. I am very sorry for the loss of structures and fencing throughout the area, but very glad to hear that no lives were lost. Hopefully there were no severe injuries either. Meanwhile, I am excited to see how this fire rejuvenates the prairie. If there is decent rain, the wildflowers should be spectacular this year and it's nice to see the red cedar population set back sharply.

  5. Thanks for all the comments! Yes, this fire, while devastating to extensive fences and some livestock herds as well as some precious homes, no human lives were lost. This is amazing considering the dangerous wildfire that this was. On the plus side, this wildfire was able to reach into canyons besides the uplands to kill 80-100% of the cedars which is a very good thing. As dead cedar skeletons might be removed and the prairie recovered, there are already signs that small canyon streams are recovering streamflows from the once water thirsty cedars.