There was a prairie fire and it burned up most of my mom's ranch. No human or livestock injuries or fatalities...which is always good. But 4,700 acres were burned, 900 bales destroyed and my mom lost the old shop that was at the back of her yard.
The fire was started by an individual who decided to burn his trash...when the winds were gusting up to 40mph. Mistakes can happen to anyone, but this is the 2nd fire this particular individual has started with his careless burning. We can only hope that criminal charges will be filed!
A good portion of the land that was burned was tribal land, but 4 property owners were affected. The fire raced across the prairie burning grass, fence posts and stacks of hay. It took firefighters from numerous counties to save our neighbor's place. Once the fire had burned around his place, it dropped into a draw between his place and my mom's and was contained. Initially, my mom's place was spared.
This is where things went horribly wrong. The Rosebud Sioux Tribe Fire Department told the volunteer fire departments that they would stay with the fire throughout the night...as is customary. My mom said 6 trucks came through her place about 10pm and she thought they were merely changing locations. For some unknown reason...the RSTFD pulled out. Totally. Without notifying anyone that there was NO ONE watching the hot spots. My mom said she laid down to get some rest, but was awakened when the wind switched directions. About that time, a neighbor who lived above mom's called to tell her he could see a growing orange glow. Mom couldn't see anything, but decided to call 911 anyway.
By the time the local fire department arrived again, the fire had burst out of the draw behind my mom's place and engulfed her old shop. It was everything the fire department could do to save the rest of her buildings...but they did. The horse barn, equipment shop and house were spared. Unfortunately...every last bale of hay my mother owned was burned. The hay and the shop were a total loss.
I know that a person should just be grateful that no lives were lost and that the rest of the buildings were saved...but I cannot help but feel more than a bit sad over the loss of some particularly sentimental items that were in that shop. My dad's canoe. My step-dad's buggy. My grandmother's wood cook stove. A hand-made swing that was a gift from good friends. There was a good deal more than that in there...but that is what comes to my immediate mind.
My mother was tearful over the loss of her hay. For so many years she struggled with the former tenants inability to get the hay put up before it was past it's prime. Last year she hired someone else to do it and finally had stacks of beautifully put up hay. All Gone! One Hundred and twelve bales. The horses will not do without though...we have sufficient hay at the other ranch to cover the need. In fact, neighbor's already pitched in and hauled a load to my mom's place, so the ponies won't miss a lick.
Dealing with the possibility of prairie fires is the norm in our country. Not usually this time of year though. Goes to show you how dry the winter has been there. Knowing this one was started by a particularly stupid individual is aggravating. Knowing my mom's place never should have burned is beyond infuriating. NO ONE leaves a fire that has that many hot spots...especially when the wind is still blowing. There is far to much fuel down in those draws for anyone with an ounce of experience to think leaving would be safe or acceptable.
My poor brother is guilt ridden because he fought fire all day with everyone, but would have stayed to keep watch if he had known no one was going to be there. He just went home to shower and grab a bite to eat and planned on coming back first thing in the morning. Our local fire chief is just sick. He also told my mom her place should never have been in danger and he planned on filing complaints against the RSTFD teams that left and the supervisors that left them unattended. He must have made good on that in short order because the muckity-mucks from the BIA were out to examine the 2nd burn area and take pictures. This isn't likely something to be taken lightly or be quietly pushed aside.
I almost loaded up and headed home, but my mom is a practical woman. The damage is done, plans were already in motion to have hay delivered and my brother and SIL are there. Nothing can be done to re-build until a full assessment is done. After that everyone will start the process of rebuilding fences and my brother and I will get the remains of the shop cleaned up. Sure don't want mom to have to look at that any longer than possible.
As devastating as it sounds...and feels...if you end up losing grass to fire, this is a far better time of year to lose it than the middle of summer. New grass will grow back this spring, probably thicker than before and mom will still be able to summer cattle on her pastures.
As timing would have it...My Hubby and I are flying to South Carolina to attend the Marine Corp graduation this week as well. I would have missed going if mom needed me, but she said she doesn't. Sooooo....I will be MIA for another few days. On a brighter note...I realized that I will only be 1 hour away from Mrs. Mom. I simply cannot be that close to one of my favorite people without meeting up. Stay tuned...cause I'm sure I'll have blogworthy fodder, not to mention the last post on ulcers coming next week.