Wildfires fueled by high wind destroy homes, kill cattle in Kansas

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WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — Wind wasn’t the only thing Kansas was dealing with on Wednesday.

Storm Track 3 Fire Tracker shows fires across Kansas in red on Wednesday. (KSN Photo)

Several towns and counties in northwest and northcentral Kansas had to battle wildfires. At least a dozen homes burned, and KSN knows of at least three people being hospitalized.

Fires were reported in Sheridan, Trego, Ellis, Russell, Osborne and Rooks County. Fires were also reported in other counties.

John Fletcher, the county administrator for Russell County, tells KSN News that they voluntarily evacuated three towns in Russell County but that residents could return to their homes Wednesday night.

A Natoma house on fire (Courtesy: Justin Frye)

The county lost seven to 10 structures. The sheriff says at least six of those structures were homes.

At least three people were hospitalized, including one firefighter. Fletcher says one person is being seen by a burn unit at a Wichita hospital.

The county administrator said an estimated 153 square miles had been affected. There is also a massive loss of cattle.

In Trego County, the emergency management coordinator said four homes, several outbuildings and farmsteads were destroyed. Kathleen Fabrizius said powerlines downed during the windstorm started the first fires south of Ogallah. She said another fire was east of Cedar Bluff Reservoir. 

In Lane County, a downed powerline sparked a fire southeast of Utica. The fire burned approximately eight miles and more than 2,500 acres. A 100-year-old farmstead burned during the fire. Utica Rural Fire District says the family was not home and only lives at the homestead a few times a year. Ransom fire assisted in controlling the wildfire.

The fire also burned four to five miles of railroad ties and a bridge owned by the Kansas & Oklahoma Railroad. A train was parked in the area due to high wind.

In Osborne County, KSN News talked to one Natoma homeowner that said six homes burned in the fire.

In Wichita County, dispatchers tell us that fires destroyed three homes along with several outbuildings.

The Kansas National Guard and Kansas Forest Service will assist in fire suppression efforts across the state.

Chelsie Wolf, a viewer, driving east of Damar, captured these images of a fire in Rooks County. Other viewers also sent pictures of wildfires.

Russell County Emergency Management is asking people who want to help to bring supplies to the 4-H building, not directly to the affected areas. The most pressing needs are:

  • Hay for livestock
  • Generators
  • Food and water/Gatorade
  • Loaders, skid-steers, tractors with buckets

Avoid donating personal items or clothes at this time.

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