State

When fire is heading toward your house, what do you take with you?

The tiny Kansas town that burned the most

The town of Englewood, population of about 80, probably suffered the most damage per capita of any town in Kansas in the largest wildfire to ever burn across the state. (March 8, 2017)
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The town of Englewood, population of about 80, probably suffered the most damage per capita of any town in Kansas in the largest wildfire to ever burn across the state. (March 8, 2017)

When Joyce Ediger finally was able to return to her house, she pulled a vase and a cast-iron pot out of the ashes. Her husband found some old spurs that had once hung on the back door.

“It was just so shocking, it was like a war zone,” Ediger said. “We could see some of the appliances melted and turned over, but nothing else.”

The Ediger family probably lost more than anyone to fire in Englewood, the tiny town that suffered more damage per person than any other in the biggest fire in Kansas, which burned more than 700,000 acres.

The Edigers were driving back from Dodge City on Monday when one of their children called and said they might have to evacuate. They arrived home after 2 p.m. and packed up the trailer with their horses. Then Joyce’s husband, Jerry, went back in to grab his guns and ammunition, so it wouldn’t explode on any firefighters.

After they dropped off their animals in Ashland, they traveled back to Englewood to try to save their son Monty’s trucks.

They managed to get two of them but, as they were leaving at about 3:30 p.m., Ediger saw the flames a half mile away from their home, and knew they wouldn’t be able to come back again to rescue the final truck or any of the pictures that hung on the walls.

A drone captures stark images of the scarred Kansas land near Coldwater and Greensburg on March 8, 2017. (Courtesy of Jonah Sowa/Kiowa County Media Center)

Monty, whose house right across the street also burned down, had insurance, so he will be able to return soon. But the Edigers are going to have to start over.

They are currently moving back and forth between relatives’ houses until their son-in-law can help them renovate the insides of an old home in town that he’s giving to them.

On Sunday the Edigers will hold their regular church service. Jerry Ediger leads a congregation of 10 faithful for two services on Sundays and one on Wednesday evenings. They pay to keep the heat and electricity on, but Jerry doesn’t take a salary, and they send the rest of their money to local missionary charities for children.

Oliver Morrison: 316-268-6499, @ORMorrison

How to help

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help the Ediger family at www.gofundme.com/3hf04co.

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