Thursday, September 1, 2016

From devastation to revitalization

What a difference five months can make: The first photo fades into the second photo, contrasting what areas in South-Central Kansas looked like just days after the Anderson Creek Fire and what the landscape looks like today. 

It could be described as a nightmare. On March 23 and 24, Kansans living in the south-central part of the state watched as the largest wildfire in Kansas history overtook homes, structures and livestock. Over 400,000 acres burned.

Just days after the wild fire burned over 400,000 acres of land the,
the landscape is charred and lifeless. 
“The area looked like a desert wasteland,” Jerry Baker, a Kansas Department of Transportation sub area supervisor from Medicine Lodge described what was left in the blaze’s wake. “The aftermath view of the area was depressing.”

During the fire, KDOT crews were essential to containing the fire. They assisted emergency officials by directing traffic, closing roads when needed and they even provided water for the fire department using their 2,000 gallon brine tanks.

“Several times we were pretty close to the fire due to its erratic behavior while we were
providing water and where we were placed for traffic control.” Baker said. “We set up traffic control where the fire chief wanted us at Aetna Road then he had us move back to Lake City Road [and] when that got too close I pulled us back to the U.S 281/U.S. 160 Junction to better control traffic and safety reasons.”

Baker said that he felt a wide range of emotions as he watched the prairie burn.
Feelings about the fire ranged from awe to fear at times, sadness thinking about all of the losses to property, livestock and wildlife then by the time it was over, exhaustion [there  weren’t] that many of us and we had to pull some long shifts.”
After the fire, infrastructure needed some serious repairs.
KDOT employees worked quickly, and within 10 days 331
guard fence posts and five signs were removed and replaced.  

KDOT also assisted with the recovery efforts in the area by repairing important infrastructure and cleaning up debris.

Besides replacing and repairing our signs and guardrails, we worked with several landowners removing dead, burnt trees; cleaning ditches and repairing washes, which helped them with their fence removal and repairs.” Baker said.

Over the course of five months, the weather has brought regrowth to the fire-stricken land. Where there was once a large, black scar there is now fresh, green prairie. 
KDOT U.S. 160 Guard Post Project Team from the Coldwater and Medicine Lodge Subarea offices and the Pratt Area were selected as the Example of Excellence on August 9th. 
Earlier this month, the U.S. 160 Guard Post Project Team from District Five was selected as the Example of Excellence for the second quarter of 2016 because of their efforts during the fire. They replaced 331 guard fence posts and five signs that were destroyed.

All in all I’m very proud of my crew and all of the other crews that helped us during the fire and with all of the repairs afterwards. They are a good group of hard working people,” Baker said.   “Another thing that was amazing to witness was all of the fire departments from all over that came to help.”

South-Central Kansas five months after the Anderson Creek Wildfires.

South-Central Kansas five months after the Anderson Creek Wildfires.

South-Central Kansas five months after the Anderson Creek Wildfires.

To see drone footage of the wildfire check out this video from Kiowa County Media:

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