During a bout of severe fire weather in early September, the Sarpy fire burned 52,000 acres in Big Horn and Rosebud Counties. The cause of the fire was determined to be an underground burning coal seam in the Northeast corner of the Crow Reservation. High winds and extremely dry conditions allowed the fire to travel 15 miles in just 5 hours.
Now the ranch families in the area are trying to pick up the pieces of their operations and put them back together. For many the damage is overwhelming.
Matt Noyes, who ranches on Tullock Creek, told Northern Ag Network’s Colter Brown about the devastation witnessed by ranchers. “We’ve got producers who have lost cattle, we’ve got close to 80 miles of fence that’s totally lost, and we were already short of grass after getting hit hard by grasshoppers.”
Badly needed haystacks and equipment were also lost in the fire. “It was pretty devastating,” Noyes said. “In the aftermath, one ranch lost up to 60 pairs and another one was like 70 pairs. And cattle are scattered everywhere, so we won’t know the total devastation of it until all the neighbors get everything gathered.”
Community members like Noyes are stepping up though to help producers get back on their feet. One of the first things they are working on is fencing and with the cost to rebuild, Noyes says they could sure use some help.
“If you look at what it costs to build a mile of fence, it’s close to $4,000,” he says. “That’s just in materials alone. So if we can get donations, if anyone is willing to donate fencing material, whatever we can get to help these people out.”
To help build awareness and raise some money a range roping is being organized at the Noyes ranch, scheduled for October 18th. “What we’re doing is a pasture roping,” Noyes explains. “It’s out on the grass, back them into a box, give a 50 foot score line and call for your cattle. Just a regular team roping, but it’s out on the grass. We’ll have concessions there and after we get done with the roping, we’ve got Exit 53 playing music. So it’ll be right there on the ranch, just having fun for the day.”
The cost to compete in the range roping is $50 per team and teams can enter up to 4 times. There will be both an adult and youth division. Noyes said he hopes to have 200 teams competing.
Also, to help with the recovery, an account has been set up at First Interstate Bank in Hardin to accept cash donations and there is a donation page on the Rancher’s Relief Range Roping Facebook page.
To send monetary donations to help those affected producers, checks should be made out to Sarpy Fire Relief Fund and sent to First Interstate Bank, PO BOX 903, Hardin, MT 59034.
Photo Credit: Tyler Pennington