Plains Fires Char Kansas Counties

They’ve stopped measuring the amount acres of grassland burned by wind-thrashed fires in four states.  Now, they’re talking hundreds of square miles.

Thousands of cattle and calves have been killed, many of which had to be put out of their misery by their owners, and at least six people have died in Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado.  Houses, outbuildings and machinery have been lost along with miles of fence.

One landowner said his brother had tried to outrun the flames on his tractor but lost the race.  He turned into the flames and tried to run back across them, but the flames sucked the oxygen out of his engine.  He was able to restart and get across, but that was as close to that kind of fire as he wanted to get.

Clark County in southwestern Kansas appears to have born the brunt of the concentrated flames.  The Kansas Division of Emergency Management reports that Clark and Comanche counties hold the record for the most acres burned in Kansas from a single fire.

So far, 351,000 to 400,000 acres have burned in Clark county (that’s 85% of the county), and 151,000 in Comanche county, making the total in these two counties alone at more than 500,000 acres, the Kansas Division of Emergency Management said.  The previous record was 322.427 acres in Comanche and Barber counties in 2016.

In addition to ground crews, there are tw2o Black Hawk helicopters with 600-gallon buckets dropping water on the fire, and two Chinook helicopters capable of dropping 2,000 gallons are joining the fight, the Division of Emergency Management said.

There are five counties across Kansas fighting fires right now, the Emergency Management Division said.  In addition to Clark and Comanche, Reno, Ellis and Rooks counties have fires not yet contained.

Governor Sam Brownback declared a State of Emergency Sunday.




Scarlett Hagins, with the Kansas Livestock Association, said the organization was helping to find and coordinate hay deliveries into affected areas.  Surviving cattle need something to eat, she said.

No reports have come in to the KLA office of any one losing 100% of their cow herd, Hagins said, although there were reports of some losing as much as 80%.

Veterinary clinics in affected areas are working hard to provide or find equipment, pens and hay for cattle producers, but many remain in crisis mode for now, Hagins said.




Heather Lansdowne, of the Kansas Department of Agriculture, said there was no information on the total losses to cattle owners in the state.  In fact, there is no mechanism in place to gather this information, so an official total may never be known.

No other organization collects such information either, the sources said.  The markets, then are left to speculate, since a national count of the US herd isn’t due until July.




Cash cattle trading Wednesday were $1 per cwt lower than last week at mostly $124 to $125 on a live basis.  However, some were trading late in the day at $126 to $127 in Nebraska, steady to up $1.  Dressed-basis trades came in at $202, versus $200 to $201.

Average fed cattle exchange auction prices Wednesday were $1.31 per cwt lower at $123.68, versus $124.99 a week earlier.

The USDA’s choice cutout Wednesday was up $1.61 per cwt at $213.61, while select was up $2.24 at $207.29.  The choice/select spread narrowed to $6.32 from $6.95 with 93 loads of fabricated product sold into the spot market.

The CME Feeder Cattle Index for the seven days ended Tuesday was $126.95 per cwt, down $0.02.  This compares with Wednesday’s Mar settlement of $124.37, up $0.42.