Oklahoma Fire Burned 300,000 Acres and Killed 3,000 Cattle

Ron Hays (Radio Oklahoma Network/KGGF Radio, Oklahoma City, OK) explains conditions that led to this disaster. “Late winter and early spring is always a dangerous time for wildfire in Oklahoma, and after good rainfall last year in northwestern Oklahoma, we had a lot of standing grass that was dry and ready to burn, so it was not a surprise when we got word of these fires in southwest Kansas, northwest Oklahoma and over the line in the northeastern corner of the Texas Panhandle.” But, he added, “The perfect storm that made these fires so dangerous, deadly and costly was the combination of strong winds – first from the south and then from the north, low humidity readings, and the large amount of grass.”  The fire that was called Starbuck began in Oklahoma in Beaver County and spread into Kansas and eventually dipped back into Oklahoma in Harper County. Ron described, “It moved crazy-fast – so fast people simply could not get their cattle and horses out of the way.”

The fire was burning “hard and fast” the night of March 6. By March 9, most of the damage was done. “It was horrific. More than 500,000 acres in Kansas, more than 300,000 acres in Oklahoma and about that much more in the  corner of the Texas Panhandle.” The official count remains about 3,000 cattle killed in Oklahoma, 4,000 sows and a lot of baby pigs at the Smithfield Farm (shown to the left) that sits on the Oklahoma-Kansas state line just south of Ashland, KS. Also, more than 1,100 miles of fence, waterers, corrals, outbuildings and a few houses were destroyed. Oklahoma State University estimates more than $16 million in losses. Ron said, “That is a lowball figure, and I would guess double that because the figure does not really account for the loss of income for the several hundred ranchers impacted.” He concludes, “The relief effort has been amazing. Local heroes have emerged to lead the relief efforts in the area, but the need is great, and it will be there for a while. Rain arrived the last weekend of March and that will speed up the regrowth, but recovery will be slower.”

Within two weeks of the fire devastation, the re-greening
of the landscapes was underway.


Fire damage to the Barby Ranch in Beaver County.