Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Smoke Clears

Well, little ones, things are looking better here in Dawes County today. They have 80% containment on the Dawes County Complex fires and are downgrading to a Type III team to keep a watchful eye on the fires to make sure they burn out in their contained areas (and don't jump containment lines and spread again). I do wish the news was as good for the Sioux County fires (by Harrison); they are only 25% contained and continue to burn out of control. We had rain throughout the northern panhandle region last night and that helped a lot, but not enough. Things are supposed to warm up again the rest of this week, which isn't really the best news for the firefighters still on the front lines.

I drove a bit south yesterday (didn't think to take my camera, but I'll go back out with it soon), and the view was, well, harsh. My head sings with happiness that the firefighters have been able to tame the beasts, but my heart weeps at the devastation of the forest and rangeland. I know come next spring the grasses will return, but all the common sense and knowledge of what's to come cannot quell the sadness of what is lost.

Many area ranchers are already planning to sell off their entire herds, as their pastureland and hay fields are all burned and they have no place to even put the cattle. It may well take a few years for the cattle ranchers in this area to recover from all this....

I ventured out with my camera this morning and took photos as Sprocket and I took one of our usual walking routes; check out this morning's photos here. These show ONLY the area south of the campus where the fire threatened to burn into town on Friday night, and they depict about 1/1000th of the area burned in just the Spotted Tail fire. Note the house on the hill that was saved (just one of many)...the firefighters did AWESOME work that night! Only 3 homes were lost...amazing....

There are photo galleries back up on www.chadrad.com again, and the local newspaper has some good articles and photos online as well.

Please consider donating to the Dawes-Sioux Fire Fund to help us pay for these fires, rehabilitate the land, help the victims of the fires (homeowners, ranchers, farmers), and help the many amazing volunteer fire departments that literally saved us in these fires. You can mail your donations to: Dawes-Sioux Fire Fund, P.O. Box 1125, Chadron, NE 69337, USA.

Thank you all so much, little ones, for your prayers, bright light, positive energy, and good thoughts for us here in the northern Nebraska panhandle. Please keep 'em coming, cuz' we all aren't out the flames just yet....

Update 8/03/06: It gets a little better every day here. The Dawes County Complex fires are 90% contained; the current estimated of total acres burned is 27,954. The northern Nebraska panhandle is in dire need of fencing materials (traditional and electric) to help area ranchers rebuild the burned fences. You can donate money to the Dawes-Sioux Fire Fund (address above) to help cover the cost of these much-needed fencing materials or you can deliver materials donations to the Crawford Livestock Market, located on West Beach St. in Crawford, or contact them toll free at (866) 665-2220 or at 308-665-2220. Donations of fencing items, hay, and other livestock feed will be accepted at the Crawford Livestock Market drop site.

Yesterday afternoon another fire broke out northwest of Harrison on the Ogalala National Grasslands; it grew from 300 acres to 1,000 acres in 30 minutes, but it was contained by last night. The Sioux County fires are still burning and not as contained as the Dawes County fires, but progress is being made.

I drove around this afternoon with my husband and took pictures...I'll get them up tomorrow. It was an amazing site, especially to see how damn close the fire came to jumping Highway 385 south of Chadron and Highway 20 east of Chadron in several different spots, how close it came to homes in several spots, and how hot it burned in some spots. There are still hot spots in the fire areas, and we did see an engine heading out to one of those hot-spot areas. We really are damn lucky Chadron is still here and so few homes were lost....

One day at a time, right? Keep the prayers coming, and please do consider sending in a donation. Stay positive, little ones!

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