Wednesday, April 12, 2006


In the news the last month has been the grassfires in the Texas Panhandle. Conditions are just right for this kind of natural disaster - a naturally dry region, prolonged drought, and warmer than average temperatures, and naturally high winds. The count now is over one million acres scorched.

When we were in Amarillo a couple of weeks ago, we drove by the worst hit areas north of I-40 around McLean. Since we were in the RV, we did not try to stop and do photos. Since I knew we were coming back for the next cataract surgery for my mother-in-law, I was planning to do my fire photographs then. Little did I know that I would have the opportunity to photograph wildfire damage on my own property.

My grandad bought ranchland in the 60's. I remember when he bought it . . . . I remember when he had the fence put in . . .

how proud he was of that fence - large cedar posts - he said it would last 100 years . . . .

A week ago today, high winds blew a power line down about a mile from this ranch igniting a grassfire that spread for two miles.

The winds were blowing about 50 - 70 miles an hour spreading the fire rapidly.

I am grateful for the playa lake on my neighbor's property that channeled the fire north, limiting the damage on my property.

The playa lake also saved my neighbor's house.

I am also grateful for the Oldham county crews that fought the fire, built a firebreak, limiting my damage to about 1/3 of the property.

This is what the ranchland normally looks like (the side that was spared).

This is the aftermath.

We won't graze the north half, but the south half is fine . . . . if we get rain . . . . .

I went out there today to survey the damage. Wildlife to note - 2 coyotes, one cottontail, one jackrabbit, numerous meadow larks, a family of bobwhite quail, and 2 longbilled curlews. While some of the obnoxious challa cactus survived the fire, quite a bit of it looks dead. The smaller prickly pear cactus (which the ranchers don't like because the cows won't eat up the grass near it) looks very dead. I was also glad to note that this fire burned quickly and not nearly as hot as the fires near McLean. My grass is scorched and black, but not burned to gray ash. I'm not worried that the ground was sterilized as I am about areas around McLean. Because of the firebreak line, it will be easy to identify the area burned, and we plan to watch it over time and see if we can identify the benefits that the fire will bring. I say this because fire is a natural part of God's plan for caring for the earth. Scientists have learned that from Yellowstone's fires.

While I could wish that we had not had the fire, I lost a minimal amount of fence. There was no damage to the windmill area. And the natural terrain and the excellent work of the firefighters limited the damage.

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