Tag Archives: prairie fire

Sunday Snapshot: Bridging the Marais des Cygnes River

Kansas is ablaze with prairie fires right now as the farmers and ranchers are preparing their fields for rebirth. Unfortunately for my asthmatic self, I’m stuck inside instead of trying my hand at paying homage to photographers like Larry Schwarm or Dave Leiker by creating a pastiche of their amazing images of this prairie rite of passage. Taking pity, Jim took me for a quick ride around town so I could escape the house.

We drove through Hope Cemetery, which was hazy with prairie fire smoke.

That haze in the background at Hope Cemetery isn't fog. It's smoke blowing in from the prairie fires.

That haze in the background at Hope Cemetery isn’t fog. It’s smoke blowing in from the prairie fires.

And then, for the first time, we followed the gravel road past the cemetery, where we found a pretty view of the Marais des Cygnes River.

An old railroad bridge crosses the Marais Des Cygnes River west of Ottawa.

An old railroad bridge crosses the Marais des Cygnes River west of Ottawa.

The Marais Des Cygnes River west of Ottawa.

The Marais des Cygnes River west of Ottawa.

The forecast calls for thunderstorms this week, which will wash away the smoke. In the meanwhile, I’m hiding in the house again.

After the fire: the aftermath of a prairie blaze in Franklin County

One weekend ago, Jim and I were following the historic driving tour of northeastern Franklin County. The golden fields were beautiful, but the land was dry, so dry. The creek beds were filled with dying weeds; the ponds were waterless cracked craters.

Kansas is in a drought. When Kansas is in a drought, all of that beautiful golden grass amounts to acres and acres of kindling.

The eastern edge of the fire, where a wooded area still smolders a day later.

She just had to shoot off her fireworks.

According to the Ottawa Herald, the fireworks stand owners wouldn’t allow her to shoot off her fireworks in their parking lot. So she drove up the road and lit her loot.

A fallen tree still smolders a day later near Osborne Terrace, just east of I-35.

Kansans have a love/hate relationship with prairie fires. Controlled, they’re a valuable tool in renewing fields, burning out brush and returning minerals to the soil. Uncontrolled, they can mean economic, ecological, and physical disaster. Photographer Larry Schwarm has captured their mesmerizing magnificence. But the can also be very dangerous, moving too fast for people or animals to outrun.

Likely scared out of its burrow, this bunny didn’t make it to safety. Seeing this bunny broke my heart.

Sometimes prairie fires are started completely by accident. A lightning strike. An errant ash caught in the wind. An overheated car pulled to the side of the road.

Her fireworks set off a blaze.

Nearly 40 acres were scorched. A hay field and thousands of dollars worth of hay bales were incinerated. A field recently planted with soybeans was destroyed. Little animals, like rabbits, were asphyxiated trying to escape. And 15 firefighters suffered injuries while battling the fire on a 101-degree day.

One of many hay bales destroyed in the July 3 blaze near Nebraska Road.

The blaze damaged utility poles along Osborne Terrace.

An elderly couple driving a white sedan pulled up with our truck as we studied the still smoldering fields.

The woman sat behind the wheel, shaking her head at the remnants of the field as the little old man next to her stared, open-mouthed, at the destruction. She told us that she lived on the other side of the highway. “I’ve never seen anything like this here,” she said. “I hope the person who is responsible for this pays.”

It could just as easily been her land. Her fields.

The fire was contained. Compared to other fires burning in Colorado and Western Kansas, it was small. But to the owners of those fields, to the animals who couldn’t escape, it was still a total loss.

Nearly 40 acres were destroyed by a rapidly moving fire near Nebraska Road and Highway 68 in Franklin County.