- Associated Press - Thursday, August 10, 2017

ASHLAND, Kan. (AP) - About five months after wildfires swept through Kansas, ranchers in the hardest-hit county have received the second installment of federal funds needed to replace thousands of miles of expensive fences destroyed in blazes.

Clark County ranchers will get about $18 million in federal funds for fencing lost when fires burned about 425,000 acres (171,995 hectares) in March. The county received half of the $18 million it requested shortly after the fire but the rest was delayed by budget shortfalls, The Hutchinson News reported .

Carla Wikoff, agriculture program specialist with the Kansas Farm Service Agency, said the rest of the funds for Clark County came in last week.

All told, ranchers lost 4,100 miles (6,600 kilometers) of fencing from what became known as the Starbuck fire that started March 6. One mile (1.61 kilometer) of fence, with labor, costs about $10,000 to replace.

About 19 counties requested roughly $24.5 million for fencing replacement through the federal Emergency Conservation Program. Most of the money came in several weeks ago, except for the remaining funds for Clark County, said Carla Wikoff, agriculture program specialist with the Kansas Farm Service Agency. That program pays up to 75 percent of the cost to repair damage caused by natural disasters, with funding capped at $200,000 per person or entity, per disaster.

Ranchers also can receive sales tax exemptions from the state for fencing expenses. Since March 17, the Kansas Department of Revenue has received more than 155 sale tax exemption requests to cover about $14.7 million for fencing. The exemptions cost the state about in $955,500 in sales tax.

A total of 711,000 acres (287,738 hectares) burned in Kansas in early March, according to the Kansas Division of Emergency Management. The majority of the losses, however, occurred in the Starbuck fire that spread across southwestern Kansas, when more than 500,000 acres (202,347 hectares) burned in Clark, Comanche and Meade counties, making it the largest fire in Kansas history.

Clark County suffered more than $44.6 million in losses, said Millie Fudge, the county’s emergency preparedness coordinator.

The numbers don’t include the value of the thousands of cattle that were killed by the flames.


Information from: The Hutchinson (Kan.) News, https://www.hutchnews.com

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