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A year later, ranchers are healing after Kansas’ largest wildfire

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Allen Barby and his daughter Kristen Carmen stand near the Cimarron River, which runs through the family’s property in southern Clark County. The entire acreage burned during the March 6, 2017, Starbuck Fire. Barby lost about 30 newborn calves. (Journal Photo by Amy Bickel.) On the morning of March 6, 2017, rancher Bernie Smith was in a hurry. Smith and one of his sons were moving cattle from one wheat pasture to another along the Kansas-Oklahoma border. But the spring chore was happening on one of those days that keeps Smith, also the Englewood, Kansas, fire chief, on alert. The sprawling prairie hadn’t received moisture since an ice storm in January. The grass was dry. Wind gusts of up to 60 mph were expected along with 80-degree Fahrenheit temperatures—nearly 25 degrees above normal. The humidity was low enough, he said in a serious tone, “you could even burn water.” Smith,…