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Kansas Governor Kelly surveys portion of property torched by December wildfires

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 December 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 December 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 December 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.

The Kansas Reflector is part of the States Newsroom, a network of similar news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity.

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