WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – It has been one year since a wind-whipped storm moved across Kansas, causing devastating fires and reduced visibility for drivers.
The storm system on Dec. 15, 2021, carried winds that reached up to 100 mph. It caused downed power lines, which sparked numerous fires. One of those fires became known as the “Four County Fire.” The fire caused the most devastation in Ellis, Rooks, Russell and Osborne counties.
The blaze was impossible for firefighters to even engage, forcing authorities to order mandatory evacuations of Codell, Natoma, Paradise, Waldo and Luray.
Numerous homes, outbuildings and other structures were destroyed. Approximately 1,400 cattle, horses and other livestock perished in the fire. Derrick Scott Kelley died when he became trapped in the fire. Another man, Richard Shimanek, died from burns while trying to save his farm near Leoti.
The Kansas Forest Service said nearly 163,000 acres burned across the state.
The wind-driven dust also caused numerous crashes, including an eight-vehicle pile-up in Grant County. According to the Kansas Highway Patrol, there were 51 non-injury rashes, 20 injuries crashes, and three fatal.
In the aftermath, recovery efforts from the Kansas Department of Agriculture, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, the Office of the Governor and other groups helped repair the damage done.