As wildfires rip through several parts of the country, owners of agricultural properties like Gardiner Angus Ranch in Ashland, Kansas, have been driven from their homes to seek shelter from the flames.
Garth and Amanda Gardiner, who have been involved in the reined cow horse industry for nearly a decade, operate the ranch along with Garth’s brothers, Mark and Greg, and their families. The Gardiner family, along with four interns, were forced to take cover and scramble to save their horses as the blaze engulfed much of the property.
“We were moving bulls [yesterday morning], and we saw this big cloud of smoke that we thought was dust,” said intern Hayley Daniell, who was moving cattle at the ranch when the fire started. “We didn’t think anything of it. We went home for an hour to get lunch, and we got a call saying we needed to go get a truck and trailer and get the horses at the bull barn.
“All of the hay bales were in flames and the alfalfa was on fire. We loaded the horses and had to tear across a wheat field to an open gate, because the flames were going over the road and we couldn’t see where to go.”
All seven of the Gardiner’s horses were pulled from the barn and taken to Mustang, Oklahoma, just in time, but the flames still knocked out part of the facility. Mark and his wife, Eva, who live in the middle of the ranch, had their home taken by the blaze, along with their two dogs. Some of the family’s cattle were also taken out by the fire.
“We were trying to get some horses out of there before we couldn’t get in there,” Garth said during an interview with KAKE-TV. “I think we are OK, but I don’t know. It is hard to tell. There is just so much devastation.”
“[Mark] lost his house, and we had some cows that were in the fire. I guess the important part is that they [Mark and Eva] are OK, and they are going to be fine. We can replace the material things, but it is really tough.”
A state of emergency has been declared in multiple counties in Kansas, and firefighters and emergency personnel continue to fight the flames the have engulfed several hundred thousand acres of agricultural and commercial land.
“They are fighting their brains out,” Garth said. “This is a beautiful part of the country. To see it be consumed like this and the devastation to personal property and homes… I can’t imagine the millions of dollars of damage this has done to agricultural land, homes and the livelihood of hardworking people who live out here.”
Though the wildfire in Western Kansas is not entirely contained, Garth, his family and ranch staff were able to return to the ranch this afternoon. They remain optimistic and hope to move forward, despite the widespread destruction.
“We have been going around with the horses since we got back, just gathering cattle and moving them to different pastures,” Daniell said. “They came around with feeder tractors pouring feed out, because there is nothing and no electricity. It is heartbreaking.”
“It’s been a tough day in Clark County,” the family shared on the Gardiner Angus Ranch Facebook page. “As many of you may have heard, fires ripped through the entire county. We are very fortunate everyone is OK here. Unfortunately, Mark and Eva lost their house, but were able to save a few possessions. All the facilities are fine and we are starting the process of checking additional damage around the ranch. Thank you for the calls, support and friendship. Everything is going to be fine, and we will certainly move on. Please understand that although we appreciate all your calls, if we don’t get back to you right away, we will as soon as we get our bearings. Our thoughts are with those in Englewood and around Clark County who also suffered loss from today’s fires. We will continue to post updates here as more news is available.”
According to the Wichita Eagle, the fires burned more than 400,000 acres across 21 counties in Kansas as of Tuesday afternoon.