March 28, 2017
The wildfires that have plagued Kansas during March, like those of the recent and distant past, will be remembered for a long time. They were of various sizes and consequences, but the amount of collective damage in terms of livestock, pasture, stored feed, facilities, fencing, equipment, homes, and emotional well being is mind boggling.
It is often the case that disasters bring out the best of human qualities. This has also been the case with this disaster. We have witnessed a tremendous outpouring of support from 4-H clubs, FFA chapters, agricultural organizations, companies, ranchers, farmers, community foundations, state and federal government, and the general public. People have donated clothes, food, feed, fencing materials, money and volunteer labor to help those affected by the wildfires begin their road to recovery. The offers of generosity have come from within Kansas, other states, and even in Canada. We had at least one Extension agent from another system offer to come down on vacation to help build fence. All of this generosity will be remembered and appreciated for a long time.
One group we especially need to highlight is all of our K-State Research and Extension colleagues who have been involved and will be involved with the relief efforts. I will not mention any names for fear of leaving anyone out. Our agents in the counties directly affected by the March wildfires have, of course, gone above and beyond the call of duty and lost many nights of sleep in the process. They have been involved in coordinating relief efforts, facilitating meetings and are now starting to develop plans to provide the education and research that are needed to help those affected rebuild their lives and livelihoods. Some, like our colleagues who are on emergency boards, volunteer firefighters or from the Kansas Forest Service, engaged by fighting the wildfires, assisting with evacuation efforts and other such activities. Our Extension professionals experienced with past wildfires and other disasters lent their advice regarding relief and recovery efforts. Other colleagues in non-affected areas helped to mobilize their 4-H clubs and other resources to aid in relief and recovery efforts. Our communications specialists worked hard to provide information via mass and social media regarding the wildfires and the relief efforts. Other specialists provided critically needed recovery research and education and will continue to do so in the months to come. All of us with K-State Research and Extension are proud of and thankful for this collective effort by our colleagues.
The road to recovery will be a long one. If you are wondering how you may help out your colleagues in the affected areas as they help lead recovery efforts in the months to come, I encourage you to contact them via email and ask how you might lend a hand. When you do so, please thank them and let them know how proud we are of them.