Dr. Kate Haag

“My husband and I own a farm and ranch where we raise milo, corn, wheat, oats, and several hundred cattle. There are cows that we feed out and sell for meat, but we also have some heifers and their babies who live out in the pasture. We also have three helpers: two guys and one woman. My husband’s family has had a farm and ranch for probably 3 or 4 generations but, about 2 years ago, we branched out on our own. We just had expansion goals that were different from the goals of his family and brothers. We’ve acquired more land since then, but it’s stayed a true family business. I take care of the HR side of the farm—hiring, performance meetings, addressing concerns with the houses we provide, and so on—but I’ll still get in on the weekends and run the green cart during harvest. Just last night, I brought dinners out to everyone who was working. It’s planting season, so they’re running out till about midnight each night… Recently, on April 22nd, a Friday, there was a fire that lasted for three days. We hadn’t had any moisture in the area, not to mention there were 70 mph wind gusts. I was worried right away because a fire can spread so quickly under those conditions. I knew that the fire had started over in Kansas, but when I got home I could already see the smoke from where we were situated in Southwest Nebraska. My first thought was that the date my husband and I had planned that night wasn’t happening, and that was okay—we needed to get moving. He had immediately assembled all of our team members and got three tractors out there to till up the ground and create a dirt barrier that’d keep the fire from spreading even more. The team also went about finding any embers and covering them up with dirt. We only have volunteer, rural fire departments here and, by the end of it, there were about 70 different departments from the area—over 70,000 acres were involved in the flames. I stayed on the radio with my husband throughout it all, but he told me it was too dangerous for me to come out—the wind just kept changing directions. First, they started evacuating the town to the East of us on the Facebook page. Then they started evacuating our area. My kids could see it, and they were very scared. Number one, they were scared for their dad. Number two, they were scared for their belongings.”

 

“At that point, we couldn’t take highways anywhere. I had to take back roads into town, and my kids and I ended up just coming into the dental office to have a slumber party; we watched a movie and I made popcorn. Truth be told, I was also scared for my husband—I didn’t get to hear from him until 4 a.m. that morning. He could only fit in a couple of hours of sleep before a bolt of lightning began everything all over again and the winds came back. Unfortunately, there was one fatality; one of the local fire chiefs got caught in the smoke and succumbed to that. A couple of others got burn injuries as well, and the fire ended up being declared a National Emergency. The next day, the highways re-opened and we were able to go home. But when I called the guys, I found out they hadn’t eaten anything. So, my mother-in-law and I decided to pick up about 30 hamburgers and chips. When we got into town, both sides of the road were on fire. We still got the groceries, but they were soon closing the highways again. We cooked the burgers, packed them up, and then I met up with one of the guys who distributed them to people as they came along. They were all so hungry but they just didn’t have time to stop and eat. Folks were really grateful for the food: apparently, one guy almost cried when he saw his hamburger. People were trying to drop off stuff at the fire hydrants, too, which was really nice of them to do. Once Monday came around, things calmed down and we began assessing damages. From there, people started coordinating fundraisers and donation drives of hay for cattle—all the grass was burnt in the pastures so there was nothing for the cattle to eat—as well as fencing supplies. All in all, the community really came together to take care of one another. Luckily, our family was okay, but it definitely changed my perspective; a lot of the people who were affected were neighbors, friends, and patients. Dental care is important, but there are things more important than what goes on in the dental world. I became really appreciative of where I live; the number of messages and phone calls I got was humbling. We didn’t end up going to soccer practice on one of the following days and a couple of the soccer moms reached out offering to bring my kids. There’s a lot of bad things in the news, but something like this makes you realize that people are still good.”