It’s been seven months since a fire devastated farmers and ranchers, destroyed homes and nearly wiped out entire herds of cattle in Haxtun, Colorado.
“All the old-timers talk about the blizzards and the rainfall and the floods that we’ve had,” farmer Kyle McConnell said. “This is another mark on our history. March 6, 2017 is going to live in infamy in Haxtun, Colorado.”
Fast-moving flames consumed more than 30,000 acres of grass and crops across Logan and Phillips counties.
The fire spread to land where McConnell’s cattle grazed.
“The fire was moving at 70 mph and the cows weren’t quick enough to run out of the way and that day we lost a total of 185 head,” McConnell said.
McConnell lost about 90 percent of his herd in one afternoon.
Since that day, there’s a mantra, of sorts, he likes to recite: “from the ashes, we rise.”
The words are printed on a photo of a cow and a calf that hangs in McConnell’s family room. Haxtun has come a long way in just seven months.
“I think to be back to where we were is years away. To be back to what one could consider normal – we’re within weeks, which is amazing,” McConnell said.
Help came to Haxtun in the days, weeks and months after the fire. Donations of money and cattle poured in.
More than $400,000 was donated to the Haxtun Chamber of Commerce Fire Relief Fund.
“There’s arms out everywhere, not to help push you down but to help bring you up,” McConnell said.
McConnell has been able to rebuild his herd. It’s now about 80 percent of what it used to be.
“You know how hard it is to try to thank people for saving your livelihood?” he said. “If it wasn’t for the support, the generosity and more than anything, just the shoulder to lean on to help get us back up – if it wasn’t for that, then our lives would look a little differently right now.”
A home and shed belonging to one of McConnell’s neighbors has been rebuilt. Crews were putting in carpeting on Wednesday, and McConnell said his neighbor would be able to move back in soon.
“Everybody’s stepped up and done their part and you know, whatever part that is, everybody’s done a little piece and every little piece has added into an amazing thing,” McConnell said.
There’s still work to be done in Haxtun and still time to find the right words to say thanks.
“Trying to describe that amount of appreciation is something that I’ve worked seven months to try to figure out,” McConnell said.