Sam Donaldson in D.C. last month. (Kris Connor/Getty Images)

Sam Donaldson finally got to see the damage to his New Mexico ranch. The veteran newsman and his wife, Jan Smith, were vacationing in Africa late last month when lightning set off a massive blaze on his property that went on to consume 100,000 acres of drought-stricken land altogether, both theirs and their neighbors’. Fire officials dubbed it “the Donaldson Fire.”

“Some people have bridges and schools named after them,” he joked. “I get a fire?”

Once back in the U.S., the Donaldsons flew west to check their property. They were lucky, he says: The fire burned two-thirds of their grazing pastures (an estimated 21,000 acres) but no buildings or animals.

“The grass will come back,” he told us. “The main damage comes from the fences.” Miles of wooden fencing was lost, while metal posts and barbed wire need repair. Costs could run as much as $9,000 per mile. But the entire Donaldson clan will spend August on the ranch, as they do ever summer.

Read earlier: Wildfires consume Sam Donaldson’s New Mexico ranch, July 5, 2011