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RAGING FIRE BRINGS COMMUNITY TOGETHER

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The call came across the radios of a fire in northwest Hamilton County, near County Road L and 7.
Fire trucks raced through town, sirens blaring. Farmers loaded up water trailers, tractors, disks, and a community banded together to help save Daryle Lewis home as well as keep the fire from getting to nearby CRP and possibly other farmsteads. 
With winds blowing upwards of 25 MPH, Hamilton County Fire Chief Ben Stultz called in area firefighters to assist. Greeley County and Wichita County headed south to the scene and Wallace County called ready if needed. 
To some, it may just be a fire, but to surrounding neighbors, it was a call to help they would always answer. And a reminder of the beauty of community. 
They came with water for the fire, water to drink, as well as snacks and pizza for the firefighters. 
Semis lined up with water waiting to be called to duty. 
Daryle Lewis is a third generation farmer. He and his late wife Dalene along with their family, received the 2020 Kansas Farm Bureau's Century Farm Award.
In 1908 the original patent was for approximately 151 acres. Land went for $9.93 an acre, homesteaded land was free. 
On June 3, 1912, with all provisions met, the land was granted by President William H. Taft to homestead. George and Katie Lewis with aunt, Henrietta Hahn, set out  from Osawatomie, Kansas, to build a life in the country. 
George Lewis built a wood shed that stood until this past weekend. 
Daryle would never know his grandparents as they passed before he was born. 
 George's son Woodrow  Lewis  and his wife Juanita Lewis, would take over the farm, followed by Daryle and Dalene. 
One of Daryle's first  memories was climbing on an open station Model D John Deere tractor.
Modern conveniences came slowly to the farm. When Daryle was five years old, they got running water in their home. A year or two later came electricity, and an indoor bathroom in 1953. 
He joined the C-4 4-H group particulary spending time on electricity and woodworking projects. 
In 1955 his father would dig the basement to their home Over the years with the help of farm hands.They would build a home, completed in 1965. 
In 1961, two years before he graduated high school they got a telephone. Back then, it was a party line. He remembers sharing the party line with George Huser, Clyde Grissom, and Clyde Cauthon.
 The Lewis' would raise their children - Annette, Babette, Patti, Cozette, and Katie on the farm. 
They farmed wheat and milo, raised chickens, and were active members of Hamilton County 4-H. 
Their children went on to live off the farm, with some as far away as New York and New Jersey, to raise children of their own. 
Sadly, Dalene passed in July 2022, leaving Daryle alone on the farm. While he visits his children often, home is the farm. 
It was where he was born. It is where his first memories came to life. And it is where a terrible fire ripped through his memories. 
Thankfully his home was spared. 
Throughout the weekend fire trucks were seen moving north and south on Highway 27 to monitor hot spots. 
Then, on Monday the winds came up over 30 mph. The sirens blared through town again. Fire trucks raced north. Thankfully it was only dust, not smoke. 
All totaled, approximately 16,000 gallons of water were used. 
Farmers and community members all praised Ben Stultz for his handling of the situation.
Stultz commented, "I am very grateful to the surrounding communities that provided such a quick response, and very thankful for all our firefighters, and all the farmers. I am very, very grateful."
With the high winds blowing Ben and crew were on standby for a large fire south of Kearny county Monday. 
Out here, everyone helps everyone. 

 

drone footage courtesy of Treg Hatcher

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