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WEBINAR: Wildfires and Vulnerable Populations

December 7 2017
Historic wildfires devastated large areas of Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Montana this year. Over two million acres of land were burned and losses are well into the billions. The economic impact will be felt for years. But what is the human impact? And how can we help mitigate the suffering caused by these fires.

Nancy Beers

Director, Midwest Early Recovery Fund



My disaster recovery career has mostly centered on the repairing and rebuilding of homes for those without sufficient resources to do so on their own. In the Midwest, where 70 percent of our disasters involve flooding, but less than 10 percent of homeowners have flood insurance, we have always had plenty to do. 


But this year was different. The most prevalent Midwest disasters in 2017 were wildfires. 


During the early days of March 2017, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska suffered a series of ongoing wildfires. Kansas had the most significant losses, with 650,000 acres burned, 5,000 cattle fatalities, and $36 million worth of destroyed fencing. Covering 20 counties and impacting over 70,000 people, the wildfires resulted in one death, 11 injuries, 40 homes destroyed and hundreds of farm buildings and structures lost.


In Montana fires began in mid-May and lasted through the end of September.  With over 1.3 million acres burned, it was one of the worst fire seasons in the state’s history. The fires claimed the lives of two brave firefighters and destroyed homes, businesses, property, and livestock. The entire state suffered months of drought, smoke, and ash.  


I followed the wildfire season with great concern.  Having never been involved in wildfire recovery, I reached out to some of our Midwest nonprofit colleagues to see how the Midwest Early Recovery Fund could help.  Much to my surprise, they were not sure what to do, how to help, or what the needs were.


So a new journey for our program began.  Here you will read about three grantees working to better understand the challenges their communities face to help those most vulnerable.