ASHLAND, Kan. (KSNW) – “The majority of humans are good, good people that want to help and want to do good, and that is what the Starbuck Fire taught all of us.”
It’s a sentiment Jenny Giles Betschart and her two sisters, Katie Shaw and Molly Beckford, share following the 2017 Starbuck Fire in Comanche County.
The fire stretched more than 600,000 acres from southwest Kansas into northwest Oklahoma. It scorched the sisters’ ranch, the Giles Ranch, spanning more than 30,000 acres.
“On that day, we lost about half of our cow herd, 80% of our calf crop, myself and both my sisters lost their homes. We lost our office, barns, some horses, a dog, a few cats. It was just a really tough day,” said Jenny Betschart.
KSN visited the Giles Ranch in February 2019, nearly two years after the fire. But, even then, the wounds were fresh as the family was in the midst of rebuilding what they had lost.
During a trip in 2022, more than five years after the wildfire, there was a different feeling on the ranch, one of strength and hope.
“I would say the first few years it was pretty emotional. Like you would see a fallen tree or see something that was missing and it kind of tugged at your heartstrings, but now things are built back. We have moved on and moved forward, and we are just surrounded by great people and good family, and it’s not something that is on the forefront or something we think about every day anymore,” said Betschart.
Today, all of the sisters’ homes have been replaced. They have a new office, a new barn, new fencing and a new way of doing business.
“After COVID hit, there was a huge need for meat. The store shelves dwindled. We had an influx of customers, and we were able to open a storefront in Ashland, Kansas, and we have just kind of grown from there,” said Katie Shaw.
The sisters ship products from coast to coast, even sending meat to New York City, something they had not dreamt of doing before the fire or the pandemic.
“We are back!” Shaw said.
While there are many changes on the ranch, from the look of the pastures to the new buildings, one thing remains the same; love and family.
“At the end of the day, we came away. We went to bed that night with every single thing that was important,” Betschart said.
Since the fire, the sisters have added to their growing family.
“I had a baby that December after the fire, and then my sister had a baby a year after the fire,” Shaw said.
Between the sisters, they have eight children.
“We have a nice large, cousin crew here. Lots of workers,” laughed Shaw.