July 24, 2012

When Disaster Strikes Small Towns Pull Together

Fire fighters are lighting a back burn next to a path that the vegetation has been dozed out in an effort to contain the flames.

Even farm equipment (far left) is used to tear up the dry grass to contain the fire.  The tractor is pulling a large disk which chops up the grass and turns in in with the soil.

Fire fighters working to keeping the flames from jumping a state highway.

Little did the communities of North Central Nebraska realize that on Friday night history was about to be made.  A lighting strike north of Johnstown Nebraska started a wildfire.  Since that time reports are saying over 90,000 acres of rural prairie and river beds have been burnt to a black crisp.  It is being said that this may be the biggest wild fire Nebraska has ever seen.  Not a record you really want to break.  Firefighters from over 200 miles away in other small rural communities have hurried in to help control the blaze.  They are working through record temperatures (well over 100 degrees), very strong winds and rough terrain.  The Nebraska National Guard and Red Cross are also on the scene to help fight the fire and provide food and water to the hot and exhausted fire fighters, local ranchers, and anyone else on scene to help put the flames out and work tirelessly to help move livestock to safety and save homes and farm structures.  I was in the Dr.'s office yesterday morning and the nurse said her parents filled the back of their pickup with bottled water and the back seat with food and took it up be distributed to the crews working the fire.  Food and drinks are being donated for communities 100+ miles away from fire not because they have to but because the people want to.
Even in the middle of this disaster, ranchers are still work long hard hours to move their cattle to safety and out of the fires path.  They still care deeply for their livestock and work to assure they get to safety and have feed and water remain a top priority even when the temperatures are reaching well over 100 degrees and the smoke filled air makes it difficult to breathe.  Cattlemen and volunteers have moved many of the livestock ahead of the fires path to a safe pastures and catch pens where they have access to both feed and water or can be evacuated to safety.  Many ranchers have mixed their herds together as they cut fences and leave gates open.  At the end of all of this these ranchers will have to sort those cattle back apart and bring them home.  Here is another great example of when branding cattle will be worth it's weight in gold.  When you ride into a herd of several 1000 cows, calves, and bulls belonging many different ranchers finding your own is going to be a challenge.  The chance of several ranchers having the same tag color is highly likely.  The branded cattle will easily and quickly be claimed by the right full rancher.  Those who are not branded will take a lot of time, patients, and cooperation between the ranchers to determine which cattle belong where and the chances of some cattle not being returned to the right home is very high. 
Even in this disaster, there have been minimal injuries, no human deaths reported, and very minimal loss of farm structures and homes. 

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