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Ranchers Survey Painful Losses After Deadly Wildfires

Wildfires swept parts of Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas last week, causing millions of dollars in damage and killing thousands of livestock.

Rancher Nancy Schwerzenbach walks with dogs through pasture burned by wildfires near Lipscomb, Texas, on March 12.

When the Schwerzenbach family saw a wildfire racing toward their remote ranch, there was no time to run.

"We had a minute or two and then it was over us," said Nancy.

The fire, moving up to 70 miles per hour, burned through nearly all 1,000 acres of the Schwerzenbach ranch, and killed some 40 cattle. A mile away, a young man in the rural community was killed.

"The fire was about two miles away before we knew what happened to us," she said.

Lucas Jackson / Reuters

A country road leads through a pasture burned by wildfires near Glazier, Texas, on March 12.

Steve Amosson, an economist at Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, estimates it could cost $6 million to recover 480,000 acres burned in Texas fires along with $4.3 million to replace and repair fences in the northern Texas Panhandle either destroyed by the fire or by cattle trampling them to escape the blaze.

Lucas Jackson / Reuters

Pitchforks that have had their handles burned by wildfires rest amid remnants of a ranch outbuilding near Lipscomb, Texas, on March 12.

Lucas Jackson / Reuters

Kay Rottmayer, 65, looks at farm equipment that was destroyed by wildfires near Knowles, Oklahoma, on March 14.

Lucas Jackson / Reuters

Cattle killed by wildfires lie in a pasture near Higgins, Texas, on March 12.

State government agencies estimate about 1,500 cattle were lost in Texas to the wildfires.

Lucas Jackson / Reuters

Volunteers and ranchers sit at a table to talk about the aftermath of the Perryton fire in Lipscomb, Texas, on March 12.

Texas is the top U.S. cattle producing state with some 12.3 million head.

Lucas Jackson / Reuters

Scorched trees stand above pasture burned by wildfires near Higgins, Texas, on March 12.

Lucas Jackson / Reuters

A calf killed by wildfires lies in a burned pasture near Higgins, Texas, on March 12.

Lucas Jackson / Reuters

A chimney is all that stands in the footprint of a home destroyed by wildfires near Laverne, Oklahoma, on March 12.

Lucas Jackson / Reuters
Ranchers tease each other as they gather for breakfast in a cafe in Buffalo, Oklahoma, on March 13. Lucas Jackson / Reuters
A fire extinguisher lies on the ground inside the remains of an equipment shed burned by wildfires near Lipscomb, Texas, on March 12. Lucas Jackson / Reuters