By Annie Andrews email@example.com
The rain and cooler temperatures forecasted for the week are coming too late for those struggling now to recover from the Niobrara River Canyon Fire. Many ranchers in the area are facing total loss, from pasture land to out buildings and even in some cases cattle.
It's a fire, all say, that could have raged far worse, but the damage for some is complete.
"To see all of our family's land up in flames was hard," said Joan Swim, choking back tears. As Swim returned to her family's ranch near Norden, the reality was too hard to grasp.
"It just looked like a movie, it was so dark and the fire was everywhere," she said. "We live on a hill and you could see the fires in the canyon, they were all around."
Those fires took in total 3,600 acres of pasture and canyon ground but that's not all. "Seventeen out buildings, all our calving sheds all our shelter belts," said Swim. That doesn't include one homestead and 580 bales of hay. "We have to have those to make a living."
The Swims are not alone say officials, of the 76,000 acres that burned; much of it was ranch land.
"It's basically been a 1-2 punch," said Ag Expert, Denny Bauer. "The whole nation is dry and now with the fire we're short of feed, everyone's short of feed." Although some cows are corralled in the burnt wasteland, Bauer said they need to get them off the land to help it recover. He's even asking ranchers to delay grazing on those acres until late next year.
"If the drought continues, we probably won't have any grazing on those areas," he said. And, that's a risk some can't afford to take.
"There are some ranchers who liquidated, loaded all the cows and took them to the sale barn," said Bauer. "They don't have hay, grass, what do you do?"
When asked what the Swim Family plans to do, Joan replied there's only one thing to do.
"We're going to try and hold on, that's the future, each cow and calf pair is the future for years to come," she said.
A future they are trying to see, through all the black that surrounds them.