Fires continue to burn in Kansas. Most are in some level of containment. Greenwood County is currently fighting a wildfire near the town of Hamilton. The Kansas Army National Guard is providing aerial firefighting support for local firefighters.
Approximately 50 fires were reported to the State Emergency Operations Center in Topeka since Monday, burning more than 25,000 acres. Aerial and ground firefighting resources were coordinated by the SEOC through the Kansas Forest Service and Kansas Army National Guard to augment fire suppression efforts by local responders. Soldiers of the Kansas National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 108th Aviation, along with troopers from the Kansas Highway Patrol and personnel from the Kansas Forest Service provided aerial and ground support to local crews battling fires in Ellis and other counties yesterday and the Greenwood County fire today.
The State Emergency Operations Center in Topeka is providing support and coordination of state and federal resources as requested by the counties. County emergency managers may continue to report incidents and request state assistance to augment local response and recovery actions through the state’s 24-hour emergency notification line.
Weather conditions are improving with increased relative humidity and decreasing wind. However, grass remains very dry and people should remain vigilant about preventing fires. Avoid any activity that could create a spark and touch off a new fire. Do not drive on or stop your car on dry or tall grass because your exhaust can spark a fire; do not throw cigarettes on the ground.
Stay away from all affected areas and do not drive through heavy smoke. Sightseeing puts you in danger and hampers the work of firefighting crews.
Gov. Jeff Colyer, M.D., declared a state of disaster emergency that includes Barber, Clark, Ellis, Greenwood, Harper, Kingman, Logan, Reno, Smith, and Stevens counties.
Several counties across Kansas experienced wildland fires Tuesday morning through the afternoon.
Most of the wildland fires reported occurred in Southwest, North Central, Southeast and South Central regions of the state. The National Weather Service forecast this area as a critical to catastrophic risk for fires with high winds, high wind gusts and low relative humidity.
Fires began around 10 a.m., dying down with the winds around 6 p.m. Twenty-one fires have been extinguished over the course of two days, 10 are in final cleanup and 16 are contained. An estimated 25,000 acres have burned to date. Many highways in Northwest Kansas were closed for a short time this afternoon due to blowing dirt. All highways are open at this time.
Two Kansas Army National Guard Blackhawks with collapsible water buckets were deployed to Ellis County to support local firefighting operations. An EMS/fire tower tumbled in Logan County.
A Communications on Wheels unit was deployed to Oakley, but the county was able to contact a private sector partner and a repeater was installed on the water tower. The state resource was demobilized.
The SEOC was staffed overnight and it is anticipated that operations will return to normal sometime Wednesday.
ELLIS COUNTY— Crews are battling fires in a number of Kansas counties as forecasters warn that strong winds could spread flames.
Near Hays, fire crews are on the scene of a grass fire burning in the area of Commerce Parkway, northeast of Hays. According to reports, traffic from Interstate 70 was being diverted or stopped.
Due to the fire, the North Central Kansas Technical College east campus in Hays was closed and classes cancelled for the rest of the day, including night classes.
In addition to Ellis County, Kansas Division of Emergency Management spokeswoman Katie Horner says the fires being fought late Tuesday morning are in in Reno and Sedgwick counties. Another blaze Monday burned 1,500 to 2,000 acres in Clark County before it was contained.
The grassland fire risk is listed as extreme to catastrophic in central and southeast Kansas because of forecasts for wind gusts of up to 55 mph. The only areas where red flag fire warnings haven’t been issued are in northeast and far north-central Kansas.
But National Weather Service meteorologist Eric Schminke says that if the public heeds the warnings, the fires shouldn’t be as bad as last year’s record-setter.