The Last Chance Fire burned 45,000 acres of extremely dry land burned near Last Chance, June 25. Four homes were destroyed.
Early estimates put the loss to agriculture at $8 million, according to Washington County Emergency Management Director Mike McCaleb.
"Our fire is the fourth largest acreage fire in Colorado History," McCaleb said. "I hope we don't get lost, because we're out here on the plains in the rural area and more focus is on the Front Range."
Officials say the Last Chance Fire started when a tire came loose from a passing car. Sparks from the tire's rim ignited the surrounding brush.
It destroyed dozens of miles of extremely expensive fences. Farmers lost cattle and hay. The fire also destroyed hundreds of power poles along with trees that provide crucial shade and wind breaks to cattle during extreme weather.
"The property's our livelihood," Steve Baker said, who has farmed his land near Last Chance for 42 years.
Baker lost dozens of trees, hundreds of acres of pasture, and 4.7 miles of fence line along his property. Early estimates put fence replacement at $11,500 per mile, he said.
"It's more than just a homestead," he said. "It's a lifestyle."
Roughly seven miles south of Baker's property, Gerald and Kay Schreiber lost nearly 4,000 acres of pastureland, along with 12 miles of fence. Their house was narrowly saved from the fire.
"We just need some availability to some funds to rebuild fences and things like that," Kay Schreiber said.
Wednesday afternoon, her husband was securing final details on temporary land for nearly 300 head of cattle and calves through the USDA's Conservation Reserve Program.
Schreiber said they would most likely have to haul water and hay to their livestock on temporary land provided by the CRP. They would also have to pay to place their cattle on the land, she said.
"Our livelihood is our cattle," Schreiber said. "Again, the cattlemen have to dig in their pocket."
Still, she was encouraged some grass is beginning to grow back after recent rains.
"You look out and you can see a little bit of green," she said.
McCaleb said Washington County is working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency on Federal disaster declarations, which could help farmers.
He also said several people have organized fundraisers to help farmers that lost property, and a local fire department that lost an engine.
Fundraising is happening for Ag producers through the Washington County Farm Bureau.
You can make checks payable to Washington County Farm Bureau
33461 Co Rd 46
Otis, CO 80743
The contact number is 970-246-3330
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