County group working hard to help those impacted by fires in western Kansas

A metal sign sits outside what was the Maupin family home near Paradise. The house burned to the ground during wildfires in north-central Kansas. Photo by Allison Kite/Kansas Reflector

While many in Marion County and surrounding areas experienced some damage on Dec. 15 from the extreme winds, the damages paled in comparison to what western Kansas faced when the storm caused fires to spread throughout the central and western part of the state. According to the Kansas Forest Service, 400,000 acres burned in 11 counties in western Kansas with smaller fires in other counties.

Many in Marion County are doing something about it. Jonas Frantz and Kelly Novak of Tampa, KS have gotten together and organized efforts to get supplies and money to those who need help in western Kansas and they will take help from anyone who wants to contribute.

“I just thought our fellow farmers could use help, contacted Kelly about donating some hay and we started working together to get something done,” said Frantz.

His wife Kim has helped with a lot of the legwork reaching out to banks and others to get information and set up avenues to assist those who need help badly.

“My husband, Jonas, had suggested we should donate some hay, contacted some other friends/family and it snowballed from there. We have many people wanting to donate hay and have also contacted several hay haulers in the area such as Stuart Penner in Hillsboro, Kent Whitehair in Abilene and Mike Houser in Solomon. Several of them are already hauling hay out west and others are more than willing to help haul if we can get enough people interested in donating. We are putting up flyers in the area,” said Kim. “If people can’t donate hay, we are also accepting donations to cover the cost of the haulers who are incurring expenses for their time, wear on trucks and fuel.”

If you can donate any amount of hay, the group’s plans are to be available for people to drop off ANY amount of hay at the Tampa fertilizer plant, west of Tampa, from 2-4 p.m. on Dec. 28, 29 and 30. Someone will be there to unload the hay and if those times do not work, those donating can call to arrange another time. Those donating may also want to call before going just to be sure plans have not changed.

Jonas and Kim have been in contact with Brandon Hamel, an auctioneer who works for the Heartland Regional Stockyards in Plainville, and they have been working together to coordinate efforts for relief including the hay drop-offs.

The Free Press spoke with Hamel, who has had damage to his own property, but he is in good shape compared to many others. He said that money is the most helpful at this point but anything helps from hay to fencing supplies. Another urgent need is for fencing supplies which are in short supply as it is, so any funds or donations of supplies they receive are going to be greatly appreciated.

He explained the damage from the fires is substantial.

“It’s pretty bad up here,” Hamel said. “Some people got hit pretty good.”

While there have been so many people around the state and from Nebraska donating hay, Hamel has heard from several farmers who haven’t received any hay. He has let the group here know and they can haul directly to those farmers/ranchers who are still needing hay now.

“We have also heard that some of the farmers are receiving feed from Nebraska and as far south as Kingman—people really do come together to help out when in need,” said Kim.

U.S. Sen. Jerry Moarn, R-Kansas, speaks after flying over north-central Kansas surveryong the damage caused by wildfires. Moran said the magnitude of the fires was enormous. Photo by Allison Kite/Kansas Reflector.

There is also a fund set up for donation at Tampa State Bank.

Kim has been pursuing all avenues to get the most stretch out of all of the donations. She read that the Bennington Bank is matching funds up to $50 thousand so she reached out to the bank president to see if he would match funds from the Tampa State Bank fund if the donations were sent to them. He got back to her and let her know that they are donating regardless of what is donated and encouraged people to continue to donate to the fund set up at Tampa State Bank.

Jonas spoke to someone who just returned from Paradise—one of the areas most affected by the fires— and they said the town was named by the settlers who first arrived there and thought it was so beautiful they named it Paradise, but now the area is devastated and no longer resembles “paradise.”

If anyone wants to donate money, checks can be made out to Tampa State Bank/fire fund. For further information or to offer help, contact Jonas Frantz at 785-366-0794 (cell) or 785-965-7165 (home) or Kelly Novak at 785-366-0419 (Please note the number run for Novak in the paper was incorrect. This is the number to use.)

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