UCM students donate time to wildfire reliefs


(WARRENSBURG, Mo., digitalBURG) — Over spring break, two UCM students aided in the wildfire relief for Ashland, Kansas.

John White, sophomore animal science and agronomy major, and Makenzi Stoy, junior animal science major, went to Ashland from March 23-26 to help rebuild fences for farmers who have been affected by the wildfires that happened this past winter and spring.

CNN reported that these particular wildfires in Kansas destroyed more than 650,000 acres of land. Because of the heavy winds and dry humidity, the Kansas flatlands were affected by the wildfires.

“You come up over a hill once you’re close to Ashland and suddenly everything is black charcoal,” Stoy said. “That is when your heart sinks to your stomach. Once you get to town you see how close the fires came to town, the school, the new hospital.”

Travis Hume, UCM farm manager, said because a lot of fencing is built with wood, it was quickly destroyed by the fires.

“The wire is galvanized, but when it gets hot it gets weak,” Hume said.

Hume said the UCM farm donated 20 bales of hay to the effort.

“I knew I wanted to donate hay because I couldn’t be there,” Hume said. “(The students) didn’t have money to give, they didn’t have hay to give. They said they have energy. It was not really my decision, but it was them asking if they could help.”

Stoy said they partnered with a Future Farmers of America group from Labette County, Kansas, the first day in town.

“We got out to the field and it was like the dust bowl,” Stoy said. “You couldn’t see very far ahead of you because of the winds stirring up the sand.”

On the third and fourth day, Stoy and White worked with a family, the Betscharts, who lost three houses, all of their pastures and their fencing.

“When it came time to go (John and I) didn’t want to leave,” Stoy said. “The community has such a long road ahead of them. They have volunteers now, but they will be rebuilding for a long time…I honestly wouldn’t have spent my spring break any other way.”

Jones Bros. Agri Service LLC donated 10 rolls of barbed wire and 50 T-posts to the fence building efforts, and the Johnson County-Missouri Farm Bureau helped with fuel costs by selling T-shirts.

Hume said he hopes they can return to Ashland this summer.

“No matter how bad it seems, there’s always hope,” White said.

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