‘Pure shock:’ Kansas cattle producer says recovery from wildfires will take five years


‘Pure shock:’ Kansas cattle producer says recovery from wildfires will take five years

A Kansas cattle producer is still picking up the pieces from December’s devastating wildfires.

“Pure shock, you never really expect to happen to yourself.”

Ethan Dickerson says the blaze destroyed thousands of acres of pasture, killed more than 200 cows and destroyed more than 40 square miles of fence. “Just the sheer fear factor – you can get out of the way of a flood.  You can go up. A tornado – maybe a big one might be a half mile to a mile wide but outside of that, it’s not going to do anything.  This was 30 miles long and 17 miles wide.”

Dickerson tells Brownfield the first priority is replacing fence but supply chain disruptions are problematic. “Red Brand, the factory, was down and now they’re putting out a little bit of wire but getting your hands on it and is pretty tough.”

He says he’s been focused on tearing out fence. “We have fencing crews coming in to put in fence where we have torn out fence and then we’ll go back to rebuilding houses, fixing a lot of stuff.  We’re still kind of gauging what all needs to be done.”

He says the drought continues, which means it could take up to five years before grasslands are fully replenished so he wants, “Moisture, somewhat slow so it would soak in because erosion will be a big issue.”

He says some grass will return in the spring and he plans to graze it once the heard is back on the ranch. “You’re just going to have to be really careful on grazing this first year.  Making sure you don’t graze too tight because the grass is already stunted. You need to make sure it’s healthy.”

And, he says he’ll be planting trees because many windbreaks burned up.  

“It’s almost like you’re on the face of the moon. It looks so different.”

Ethan Dickerson, Paradise, Kansas: