#317 – Kansas wildfires go unnoticed by MSM

Excerpts taken from an article written in Beef Magazine by Amanda Radke

While most of the MSM focused on the tornados, Kansas seemed to get little to no airtime. Although loss of human life was small in comparison, the loss of livestock was devastating.

Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021 in Kansas, wildfires were sparked and fueled by extreme winds and drought-like conditions. Nearly 163,000 acres were ravaged by the flames, and two deaths have been reported.

According to ABC News, “Two men have died from injuries suffered in wildfires that have burned hundreds of thousands of acres across Kansas this week, authorities reported.

“Richard Shimanek, 84, a farmer and rancher who lived near Leoti, died Thursday night at a hospital in Denver, Leoti Mayor and Fire Chief Charlie Hughes said. He was outside his home trying to fight the fire Wednesday when he fell and couldn’t get up.

“The Ellis County sheriff’s office said Friday that the remains of Derrick Kelley, 36, were found near his burned vehicle in a rural area of the county. The coroner identified the remains, the sheriff’s office said.

“Kelley was last seen in Hays on Wednesday, shortly before his fiancee reported him missing. The sheriff’s office said he was believed to be driving on county roads toward Natoma.

“Both men were killed in wildfires that erupted Wednesday in western and central Kansas, fueled by dry conditions and winds up to 90 mph (145 kph). The Kansas Forest Service said 625 square miles (1,620 square kilometers) burned in 11 counties in western Kansas, with smaller fires in other counties.”

I have read horrifying stories of farm houses being completely lost in the fires, livestock dead throughout the impacted pastures, and communities rallying together to help those who need places to stay, food to eat, clothes to wear, and feed for their livestock.

For a list of ways you can support those most impacted by these wildfires, KWCH has compiled some fundraisers that are currently active, which you can read here.

  • Monty and Kristi Morrill Ranch fire relief: Kristi and Monty are cattle and horse ranchers who lost their entire ranch to a wildfire that occurred on Dec. 16. They lost over half of their cattle and their entire ranch. All of their horses have suffered burns.
  • Farm and home rebuild: Bart and Bret Hunt suffered burns and smoke inhalation when their home and farm were destroyed in the Dec. 15 wildfires in southwest Kansas They made it out with only the clothes they had on. The men also lost cattle and are still working to locate their dog, Buddy. Michelle Schiffelbein started the GoFundMe to collect donations for the men as it was her family’s farm that the men were tending to that fretful day.
  • Shimanek Farm Recovery FundRichard Shimanek, 84, of Leoti, died Thursday from burn injuries he suffered in a wildfire in Wichita County. A GoFundMe was started for his wife, to help her get back on her feet after all the loss.
  • Sunflower Clydesdales Fire Relief Fund:The owners of a local business that breeds and sells Clydesdales lost horses, their home, their barn, and carriages and are looking for support to rebuild.
  • Next Gen Bar S Ranch: Nearly $30,000 has been raised for Bar S ranch located in Paradise, Kan. According to the GoFundMe page, the Bar S lost almost everything including their dogs, horses, cattle, home, vehicles, show barn, and the list could go on.
  • Support the Glaze FamilyKacey Glaze and her family lost their house and all their belongings to the wildfires near Hays on December 15.
  • Morton’s house fireOn December 15, 2021, Lisa (Metzler) Morton and her husband, Royce, lost their home to the fires. Their son Matt Morton and his family lost their home as well. Lisa’s classmates from the class of ‘84 have launched the GoFundMe to help.
  • Cindy Walter Family House Fire: After the untimely death of her husband four years ago, Cindy Walter has persevered in the role of a single parent raising her two teenage children. Their home has been destroyed, along with treasured belongings, by the wildfires that spread across western Kansas on December 15, 2021. They are safe but were unable to salvage anything at all from the home.
  • Emergency FundThis GoFundMe was launched for Cindy Walter by her employer, Michael Lohrmeyer. Walters has worked for the Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society of Hays, Kan., for over 10 years. Lohrmeyer said that in the immediate aftermath of this unfortunate disaster they are trying to get the family basic amenities, clothes, food, temporary shelter, and any other unforeseen expenses.
  • Emergency Fire Relief Fund – Jason SpiessJason was one of many who lost everything in a recent grass fire in Paradise, Kan.
  • Coles expense fund: A Kansas firefighter’s home was destroyed in a fire while he was out trying to save the homes of others:
  • Koester Brothers Ranch Fire Relief Fund: Close to $14,000 has been raised in one day for a ranch that suffered tremendous livestock losses due to the Russell County wildfire disaster.
  • Lawson Fire Relief FundCraig and Joleen Lawson’s recently lost their ranch in a wildfire near Paradise, Kan. This GoFundMe page is to meant to help them pay for veterinary bills, rebuild the Awesome Lawson Barn and Arena, and clean up from the fire.

My heart breaks for those impacted by these unexpected weather events, and I send my deepest sympathies and prayers to those who have experienced loss of life, their homes, and their livelihoods as a result of these storms.

This Christmas season, I urge everyone who is able to join me in assisting those in need. It may be folks in these rural communities or back at home in your own area. It’s such a harsh reminder that life is short, and we often take our blessings for granted.

There are so many people hurting right now, but please know you have an agricultural community that will rally around you in your time of need. We are one big family, and we must stick together! Stay safe and well, my friends.

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