• Last modified 694 days ago (May 26, 2022)


After twice evacuating for fire, couple now lives in Lehigh

Staff writer

James and Susan Snyder are living in Lehigh now that they’ve been forced to evacuate their home five miles east of Hutchinson twice in two weeks because of wildfires. The second time, they lost their home.

Fortunately, they already were planning to sell their house, and their son had purchased a house for them in Lehigh in January.

They will never forget the traumatic experiences they went through, however.

The first time, fire came into their backyard and swept around their homestead like a horseshoe.

The Snyders weren’t home and couldn’t return for a while.

“If the house is gone, we won’t have to move at all,” she said to her friends.

After seeing the burned grass on three sides of their property, Susan said, “The only way it can get us now is from the south.”

And that’s what happened two weeks later.

They were sitting down to lunch March 3 with their son and granddaughter when a neighbor called and said: “Fire is heading straight for your house. Get out now!”

They jumped into their three vehicles. Halfway down their quarter-mile-long driveway, they found fire burning along one side. The smoke was thick.

“We couldn’t see but kept going,” Susan said.

They made it to a church parking lot, where other victims joined them.

A neighbor had to drive through flames on both sides of her driveway to get out. The neighbor didn’t know how she got through. Smoke still was coming from under the hood when she arrived at the parking lot.

The fire burned more than 90 vehicles, many outbuildings, and 35 homes.

The Snyders were able to return to their farm in late afternoon. Flames were still present, but everything but a small shed was gone.

“We just had the clothes on our backs and my purse,” she said. “It was cold, and I had only a light denim jacket. It even snowed the next day.”

She got several blankets from the Red Cross to wrap around her.

It was Friday evening, and she needed heart medicine, so she went to the emergency room to get it. They refilled other medicines Monday morning at a pharmacy.

They went to their son’s house in Moundridge for the night and spent the next 40 days in a motel while they continued to work on their Lehigh house.

They moved to Lehigh in mid-April.

They were amazed at the generosity of people. A man who owned an overstocked business gave them a bed, bedding, and towels. Other people donated a refrigerator, a stove, a washer, a dryer, and a table and chairs.

Boxes and boxes of other things were delivered to them, and gradually Susan has been unpacking them. She said there were few duplicates.

“We got everything we needed,” she said. “I’m sad over things I lost, even a genealogy that I put on a flash drive, but the fire took the computer and the flash drive.”

She also lost paintings and woodcarvings she had created as hobbies.

The Snyders are thankful they had insurance to help them. Susan said many people didn’t have house or car insurance and were left with nothing.

“God’s hand has been in all of this,” she said. “He provided for us. We feel blessed because we had a place to go and had a house.”

Last modified May 26, 2022