WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – As predicted on Sunday, the wind, along with dry conditions, helped fuel wildfires and blowing dust across Kansas.
Chase and Marion County Fire
One of the first fires reported Sunday was along the Chase and Marion County Line, and the Harvey County fire task force said they responded to the fire. The fire was between C Road and Clover, north of Kansas Highway 150.
The Kansas Forest Service said the Middle Creek Fire burned approximately 2,600 acres, and the forward progress has been stopped.
Hot spots will continue to smoke. The Ag Air Service, Inc. Tanker 95 completed several water drops on that fire.
First responders asked residents to stay out of the area as they worked to contain the fire.
Reno County fire
Reno County Fire District No. 4 battled a fire on South Sterling Road Sunday that caused minor damage to a building.
Additional units from fire districts No. 6 and No. 7 also responded. Reno County Emergency Management said the area was heavily wooded and had structures threatened. Fire district No. 8 and Reno Kingman Joint Fire District No. 1 joined. A total of 17 impression units and four support units assisted in battling the blaze.
Finney County fire
In southwest Kansas, the Garden City Fire Department was dispatched to a reported fire at the intersection of Towns Road and U.S. Highway 50 around 2 p.m.
The Garden City Fire Department said seven homes were evacuated, and approximately 600 acres were burned.
The fire started on the south side of the highway and spread to the north side of the road. At approximately 6:40 p.m., crews said the fire was 98% contained. Several farmers provided assistance with tractors, discs and blades to get the blaze under control.
Two Garden City firefighters were transported to St. Catherine Hospital for smoke inhalation and later released. One fire brush truck was damaged and is a total loss.
The GCFD said the cause of the fire is undetermined, and there is no damage estimate available.
Fires in Ellis, Ness, Rush, and Trego counties
Meanwhile, in western Kansas, wildfires were reported Ness, Rush, Trego and Ellis counties.
The fire in Ness County is located northwest of McCracken. In Rush County, the fire is located east of Alexander.
In Trego County, a fire was located southwest of WaKeeney. Trego County Emergency Management said members of Trego County Rural and WaKeeney City departments remained on the scene to monitor it overnight. Several homes were evacuated south of town during the fire, but all residents were allowed to return.
The fire in the southern part of Ellis County is under control. The fire was driven by the wind from Ness County. Fire crews remained on the scene to mop up hot spots and monitor the area overnight. The fire was reported to be about 9 miles long and 4 miles wide. At one point, the fire was being tended to by crews and farmers with disks. Darin Myers, the fire chief and county administrator for Ellis County, said over 20 fire apparatus and 52 firefighters helped fight the blaze. The fire department was supported by the Ellis County EMS, Public Works, and Sheriff’s Office. Mutual aid assistance was also used from the Hays Fire Department and the Trego, Ness, and Rush County Fire Departments, as well as the Kansas Forestry Service. Estimates show the fire burned about 8,500 acres in the county. Myers said that no homes were lost in the fire. One firefighter was treated by Ellis County EMS and transported to Hays Medical Center for smoke inhalation.
Hay fire in Hamilton County
A hay fire caused Kansas Highway 27 at County Road 27 in Hamilton County to close just before noon. Crews contained the fire, and both lanes have been reopened.
Across the state line in Grant County, Oklahoma, the sheriff’s office says multiple fire districts were actively involved in fighting the fire on the west side of the county. It happened around 1 p.m.
The sheriff’s office said as of 6 p.m., Oklahoma Highway 11 has reopened for east and westbound traffic, but there is still smoke in the area that is heavy. Crews are working on flare-ups and hot spots.
Blowing dust across Kansas
The Gray County Sheriff’s Office said the wind is creating blowing dust across roadways, and the visibility is reduced to less than 25 yards.
The Goodland National Weather Service shared a video of the conditions outside their office in far northwest Kansas.
The National Weather Service in Dodge City said they received reports of visibility less than a mile and urged residents not to travel. They said very hazardous conditions will continue for a few more hours before the wind weakens.
The KSN Storm Track 3 Weather team said the wind will be incredibly strong out of the southwest on Sunday. Gusts could exceed 50+ mph. There were high wind warnings across the state, and the fire danger conditions were critical.
The Kansas Highway Patrol has listed the following driving tips that are recommended when encountering a low-visibility dust storm or smoky conditions.
- Avoid driving into or through a dust storm if possible.
- While driving through dust and smoke make sure to have your headlights on.
- Do not wait until poor visibility makes it difficult to safely pull off the roadway — do it as soon as possible. Completely exit the highway if you can.
- Do not stop in a travel lane; look for a safe place to pull completely off the paved portion of the roadway.
- Stop the vehicle in a position ensuring it is a safe distance from the main roadway and away from other vehicles.
- Turn off all vehicle lights, including your emergency flashers, while parked.
- Set your emergency brake and take your foot off the brake pedal.
- Stay in the vehicle with your seatbelt buckled and wait for the storm to pass.
- Drivers of high-profile vehicles should be especially aware of changing weather conditions and travel at reduced speeds.