News Briefs

Kelly surveys portion of property in Kansas torched by December wildfires

By: - December 30, 2021 10:05 am
Gov. Laura Kelly and Department of Agriculture secretary Mike Beam surveyed central Kansas property damaged in December wildfires and met with farmers and ranchers working to recover from the disaster. (Submitted)

Gov. Laura Kelly and Department of Agriculture secretary Mike Beam surveyed central Kansas property damaged in December wildfires and met with farmers and ranchers working to recover from the disaster. (Submitted)

TOPEKA — Gov. Laura Kelly met with ranchers and farmers in Osborne and Russell counties who experienced damage to livestock, crops, barns and homes in the mid-December wildfires.

“While our farmers and ranchers have always persevered through challenges, we know the storm and wildfires caused significant damage.” the governor said. “It’s critical that we mobilize all of the available resources to aid their recovery.”

On Wednesday, Kelly was with Kansas Department of Agriculture secretary Mike Beam for a meeting on the rebuilding process hosted by the Kansas Farm Bureau and Kansas Livestock Association in Natoma.

The governor declared a disaster emergency Dec. 9 due to the elevated threat of wildfire as a result of drought in central Kansas. In wake of a widespread and fast-moving storm that triggered wildfires on Dec. 15, Kelly instructed the Kansas National Guard and Kansas Forest Service to respond to the calamity.

The weather event was described as a derecho, which can be defined as a swath of storms exceeding 240 miles in length with wind gusts of at least 58 mph. During the storm, blowing dust and high winds closed numerous highways in western Kansas.

Kelly endorsed a proposal for the Kansas Legislature to adopt a special sales tax exemption for purchase of supplies necessary to rebuild burned fencing. The temporary tax break has been used in the past in Kansas following large wildfires.

The Kansas Forest Service estimated approximately 165,000 acres were impacted by wildfire on Dec. 15. Preliminary estimates of the acreage burned were higher.

“We are also grateful to see the tremendous volume of hay and monetary donations that have come in from outside this region and from other states as well,” Beam said. “It’s heartwarming to witness how neighbors have pulled together to help each other during these times of need.”

Information about recovery resources for farmers and ranchers, including mental health resources, can be found on agriculture department’s website.

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Tim Carpenter
Tim Carpenter

Tim Carpenter has reported on Kansas for 35 years. He covered the Capitol for 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal and previously worked for the Lawrence Journal-World and United Press International. He has been recognized for investigative reporting on Kansas government and politics. He won the Kansas Press Association's Victor Murdock Award six times. The William Allen White Foundation honored him four times with its Burton Marvin News Enterprise Award. The Kansas City Press Club twice presented him its Journalist of the Year Award and more recently its Lifetime Achievement Award. He earned an agriculture degree at Kansas State University and grew up on a small dairy and beef cattle farm in Missouri. He is an amateur woodworker and drives Studebaker cars.

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