Fires Affect Western Ranch Land and Livestock Producers


image via NYTimes.com

Once again, a reader has passed along a link that is worth a discussion. This time it’s simply worth reposting. I’m sure we’ve all seen the photos and headlines about recent wildfires in Western States of Texas and now Arizona. As member of the Agriculture community, I think about the ranchers and livestock in harm’s way, but National news coverage doesn’t always include that aspect. Here is an interesting viewpoint from Julie Carter of the Ruidoso, NM news. Take a read and think about how those affected must feel. I’ll try to post some links on how we can help out later in the week.

Fire, Fear, and Friends

It’s been five years now, but I can promise you it will never be forgotten. It isn’t a unique incident under the circumstances, but it tore out the heart of one New Mexico ranching family and the scars will never fade.

While most people in the county were settling down in the quiet of the evening, this particular rancher was shooting, one at a time, dozens of his sheep.

It was a mercy killing but in the agony of the moment, he could personally feel the anguish he heard in the pained bleating of his ewes. Their charred bodies lay prone on the blackened ground, covered in burns from a prairie grass fire they could not escape.

These charred ewes called to their dying lambs as the tears rolled from the rancher’s eyes. He loaded his gun again and again, each shot bringing a somber silence to the decimated hillside.

That same kind of drought-driven fire season has returned to the Southwest as well many of the surrounding states. With more new fires cropping up daily, the media reports have begun to numb the senses of readers and viewers, but the terror of those in harm’s way never sleeps.

The continual stream of data that reporting the burned acreage, names of responding agencies and the information about lost structures have become the measuring stick for the severity of the fire.

Behind those statistics are untold human stories of fear, desperation, helplessness and loss. Those scars will remain long after the fire crews leave and skies are clear again.

Offering some balance to the devastation are the reports of those that were spared only by the grace of God.

In 2006, drought conditions similar to the present lack of moisture, brought fires that burned more than a million acres of ranch and farmland in the Texas panhandle, wiping out structures, fences and livestock; however, it warranted only a brief blip on the national news scene.

Today, a number of Western states are covered over in smoke from a half-million acre-and-growing Arizona fire that has forced evacuations of towns, ranchers and communities. It continues to defy firefighting measures to bring it into any kind of promising containment.

The word “fire” taunts the perimeters of men’s minds as ever-watchful eyes constantly scan the horizons for signs of impending trouble. Every hour is filled with dreading of the visual of a smoke plume or a frantic call from a neighbor speaking the words least welcomed, “We have a fire.”

And when the thunderheads finally do gather, the fear turns to a mixture of dread and hope for the rancher. With the knowledge that it is “lightning that knocks the rain out of the clouds,” he can’t let himself speak against it, but quietly prays that more than ten drops of rain will come with the thunderbolts.

Behind every acre burned and in front of each terrifying wall of flames is the human element of loss. Words don’t define it, only report it. Pictures give it reality, but even those are one-dimensional stories without the angst that is ripped from the souls of those in harm’s way.

If there is really a true “plus” to all the devastation it is that without a thought, people come together and take care of their own.

The outpouring of selfless offerings to help followed by the tangible evidence that mankind can and will put aside all differences to aid those less fortunate is a moment we need to heed.

For tomorrow, it may be we that require that outstretched hand.

via Ruidoso News