- Associated Press - Friday, February 10, 2017

MEDICINE LODGE, Kan. (AP) - Firefighting costs hit $1.5 million in the county hardest hit by a massive wildfire along the Kansas-Oklahoma border last year.

Jerry McNamar, emergency management director for Kansas’ Barber County, said he’s optimistic that the Federal Emergency Management Agency will pay 75 percent of those fire suppression costs, The Hutchinson News (https://bit.ly/2kX7CpJ ) reports.

About $400,000 was spent on four National Guard helicopters that dropped water on the fire over two days. McNamar said money also was spent for fuel, repairs, food and water. Little went toward wages because the county’s volunteer firefighters earn just $15 a run.

The blaze started last March near the Anderson Creek in Woods County, Oklahoma, before moving into Kansas.

McNamar said the county’s economic losses include the 750 to 800 cattle that died in the county, along with at least 2,700 miles of fence - worth $27 million - that was destroyed.

“It will take a long time to recover the economic losses,” McNamar said, “but the community is resilient.”

According to the Kansas Forest Service, the Anderson Creek Fire was the largest wildfire in the state’s history. And across Kansas, there was an outpouring from residents who wanted to lend southern Kansas ranchers a hand.

More than 184 organizations volunteered during the fire, including fire departments, said Ross Hauck, fire management coordinator with the Kansas Forest Service.

At one time, more than 954 people were on the scene from five states. Some helped fight the fire, while others brought supplies and raised cash to help ranchers. Loads of hay were taken to ranches to help supplemental feed after the fire. Kansas residents also donated barbed wire, fence posts and cattle minerals. Cattle were sold at progressive auctions, with the funds going to the wildfire efforts.

In all, residents donated more than $528,359 to the Kansas Livestock Foundation for wildfire relief, said Todd Domer, with the Kansas Livestock Association.

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

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