Wildfires burn more than 25,000 acres across Kansas

(KWCH and AP) The latest on the wicked winds causing problems across Kansas:

Abilene, about 3 miles north of I-70 at the Jeep Rd Exit. "It burned pasture ground and a few outbuildings," said Hazel Knott. The rural fire department contained the fire but the cause is undetermined.

March 8, 2017
Crews have extinguished 50 wildfires and are now mopping up the remains of another seven amid an outbreak that has blackened more than 42 square miles across Kansas.

The Kansas Adjutant General's Office said Thursday that no fire-related injuries have been reported in the state. A barn and outbuilding were destroyed in Elk County.

Its spokeswoman, Katie Horner, says the fire risk has eased for now. But she adds the state remains dry and there is a fire danger every day, particularly this weekend in western Kansas.

As many as nine Black Hawk helicopters with water buckets were deployed at one time this week to assist with firefighting efforts.

Most of the acreage that burned was in northwest Kansas where five fires charred more than 23 square miles.
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12:30 p.m. update
Crews in Hamilton, Kansas are dealing with grass fires. The Greenwood County Sheriff sent a reminder on their official Facebook account reminding drivers to stay away from the fire areas.

They also remind drivers that driving past a roadblock and interfering with firefighting efforts could get you arrested.

March 7, 2018

Midwest Energy says its Hays crews are in northeast Ellis County restoring power to after Tuesday’s fires.

They also shared a photo of Black Hawk helicopters from the Kansas National Guard doing water drops nearby. The KNG deployed six helicopters with water buckets and activated 29 soldiers to man them and two fuel trucks.

They're assisting fire crews that continue to battle wind-blown wildfires that have burned about 40 square miles in Kansas.

State officials say nearly 50 wildfires have erupted across Kansas since the weekend, although most have been put out or contained. The fires are primarily across central Kansas, ranging from the Nebraska to the Oklahoma borders. Strong winds complicated the firefight Tuesday, with gusts topping 70 mph in western Kansas.

An estimated 25,000 acres have burned to date.

Many highways in Northwest Kansas were closed for a short time Tuesday afternoon due to blowing dirt. All highways are open at this time. The fires also prompted evacuations.

It is unknown how many structures have been destroyed, but officials have a report of at least one home that caught fire in Elk County. Strong winds also blew over a communications tower in Logan County.



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Tuesday night:

Trooper Tod Hileman with the Kansas Highway Patrol says a fire near the township of Catharine in Ellis County is about contained.

Hileman tweeted out video of the Black Hawk helicopters deployed by Gov. Jeff Colyer and the Kansas Adjutant General's office earlier in the day.

The fire is one of the biggest fires crews had to deal with across the state on Tuesday.

"I wanted to leave you with a sight you don't get to see every day," tweeted Hileman. "These Black Hawks were a godsend today!"

The Kansas Department of Emergency Management says more than 10,000 acres of land and some outbuildings burned across Kansas on Tuesday.

No one was hurt and no homes were destroyed, but it was a close call for the small northeast Ellis County community of Catharine.

Tuesday night, Ellis County says the fire still stretches about five miles. Black hawk helicopters assisted in putting out most of the fire in the county while in Catharine, people listened for updates from first responders. By late afternoon, the smoke was blowing away from Catharine and people in town were thankful they did not have to evacuate.



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5:58 p.m.

Crews are battling pockets of wildfire across Kansas with at least 10,000 acres burned so far.

Kansas Division of Emergency Management spokeswoman Katie Horner says that as of late Tuesday afternoon there were still 17 active fires and firefighters are mopping up another six that are almost out. Crews have put out 19 fires.

The fires are primarily across central Kansas, ranging from the Nebraska to the Oklahoma borders.

It is unknown how many structures have been destroyed, but officials have a report of at least one home that caught fire in Elk County. Strong winds also blew over a communications tower in Logan County.

The Kansas National Guard has deployed six helicopters with water buckets and activated 29 soldiers to man them and the two fuel trucks.

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4:12 p.m.

The Kanas Department of Transportation has reopened I-70 from Goodland to Colby, U.S. 24 from Levant to Colby and U.S. 40 from Sharon Springs to Oakley

Blowing dust and low to zero visibility caused the road closures.

KDOT says the blowing dust may still cause problems, and drivers are urged to use caution when traveling.

For up-to-date information on road closures and road conditions, call 511 in Kansas or 866-511-5368 outside Kansas, or check travel information online at www.kandrive.org.
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3:30 p.m.

High winds left several people without power throughout the day.

In Clearwater, a power pole fell onto two cars in the parking lot of the Clearwater Nursing Home.

The City of Bel Aire tweeted out a photo of crews fixing a fallen line near 53rd and Rock Road.

Students at North High School were without power at least through the lunch hour.

Westar Energy reports there are currently 127 customers without power.

Midwest Energy, who services parts of western Kansas, says several wind-driven fires are creating problems for people northeast of Hays. Crews are also fighting winds to restore an outage north of Great Bend but successfully restored power after an outage in Stafford.

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3:19 p.m.

The Kansas Division of Emergency Management says firefighters responding to at least 12 active wildfires across Kansas right now after helping to extinguish at least 19 fires.

One of them is located in Ellis County near the township of Catherine, and north of Hays.

Gov. Jeff Colyer said in a tweet he met with the State Emergency Operations Center and deployed Black Hawks and additional resources to help combat the fires in Hays.

The Adjutant General's office says four UH-160 Black Hawk helicopters and about 16 soldiers from the Kansas National Guard are assisting.

The helicopters are equipped with collapsible Bambi buckets which will be used to draw water from local sources to drop on hot spots that are difficult for ground crews to access.


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3:05 p.m.

The Harper Fire Chief says firefighters are working two fires in the county and possibly a third near Attica. He says the first fire is almost under control. The second one is further north, about 3-4 miles northeast of Harper and that’s their main focus right now.

No structures are currently in danger, but earlier fires did pose a threat.

Fire crews from at least 11 agencies responding.


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2:32 p.m.

Wichita Public Schools says some of its school buses may experience delays today. First Student buses will not use elevated roadways due to the high wind warning in effect.
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2:17 p.m.

Colby Public Schools will not run bus routes today due to blowing dust and road closures.

The district says parents and guardians need to pick up their child(ren) and may do so at anytime between now and the end of the day. It is an excused absence.

High School students need to communicate with parents about whether or not they will drive home or be picked up.

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1:38 p.m.

The Oakley School District will not run buses because of the wind. The district says parents will need to pick their kids up from school at the normal dismissal time.

Blowing dust has led the Kansas Department of Transportation to close several highways in the northwest part of the state including I-70 from Goodland to Colkby, K-25 from Colby to Monument, and US-36 from Atwood to Oberlin.

The strong winds also caused at least three semi rollovers in Thomas, McPherson and Ellsworth counties.

The Thomas County Sheriff's Office says the crash it worked was located near the town of Rexford and the semi will remain in the ditch until the wind situation improves.

No word on injuries in any of these rollovers.

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1:14 p.m.

Trooper Tod with the Kansas Highway Patrol says both directions of I-70 is back open at Hays.

The Kansas Department of Transportation closed the road earlier in the day due to a grass fire that caused smoke to blow across the road.

1:12 p.m.

Hays Public Schools says a grass fire near the City of Hays is not a threat to any schools in the district at this time.

The district said NCK is in the path of much of the smoke but should not be threatened unless the winds change.

The district said it will continue to monitor the situation and be in touch with emergency services to let parents know if the fire becomes a concern for any of our buildings and/or personnel.
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12:59 p.m.

A Dust Storm Warning is now in effect for northwest Kansas.

The National Weather Service out of Goodland is asking for anyone who experiences reduced visibility from dust to call 785-899-7119.

The NWS says dust storms are capable of damaging property.

Residents are encouraged to secure loose objects or bring them indoors, if possible. Winds of this magnitude can also cause a loss of vehicle control and cause high profile vehicles to tip over.

People with respiratory problems are encouraged to stay indoors or wear masks.

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12:49 p.m.

U.S. 36 from Atwood to Oberlin has been closed due to reduced visibility caused by blowing dust.

For up-to-date information on road closures and road conditions, call 511 in Kansas or 866-511-5368 outside Kansas, or check travel information online at www.kandrive.org.

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12:34 p.m.

The Kansas Department of Transportation has closed I-70 from Goodland to Colby due to reduced visibility from blowing dirt.
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12:30 p.m.

The National Weather Service out of Dodge City says a fire has popped up about 12 miles northwest of Hugoton in Stevens County has popped up. It's the same county in which firefighters fought to contain fire to hay bales near the town of Moscow.

Crews continue to fight a fire near Hays.

Trooper Tod Hileman with the Kansas Highway Patrol says, "If you live in or around the Hays area, please avoid old Highway 40 at Toulon. Very heavy traffic coming off of I 70, so if you could use another county road, that would help us. Please and thank you!"



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12:26 p.m.

Crews say a grass fire near Lake Afton, 47th St. S. and 231st St. W. is now under control.

Sedgwick County says 24 units from Sedgwick County Fire District 1, Wichita Fire Department, Cheney Fire Department, and Clearwater Fire Department all responded to the fire.

The county says residents and businesses nearby need to use caution and be aware of this situation.

"If any fires develop downwind, residents should be advised to move to safety," the county said in a news release.

Sedgwick County is under an extreme fire danger until 6 p.m. today. This means no outdoor burning is permitted and residents need to use caution and avoid any outdoor burning including using cigarettes, welding, or even a car exhaust backfire.



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11:55 a.m.

K-25 from Colby to U.S 40 has been closed in Logan County due to reduced visibility caused by blowing dust.

The National Weather Service in Goodland says the GOES-East is picked up the blowing dust along I-70.

"These plumes may make travel hazardous, especially along the Interstate," the NWS-Goodland said in a tweet.



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11:24 a.m.

Firefighters are battling grass fires statewide due to the high winds.

In Sedgwick County, crews are fighting a fire near S. 231st St. W. & West 39th St. S. At least two structures are involved. Cheney and Clearwater Fire Departments have also responded.

Reno County crews have two fires at Sylvia and Medora on fire, but one near Haven is still a problem.

Trooper Tod Hileman with the Kansas Highway Patrol tweeted that a fire just north of Hays has led I-70 traffic to be rerouted to old Highway 40 because of zero visibility.

"Fire crews on scene trying to stop it from going into Hays," he tweeted


The National Weather Service out of Wichita says its satellite indicates a large fire a few miles north of the town of Harper.


Storm Team 12 says the highest wind gust recorded in the state today was about six miles north of Scott City.

Stay with Storm Team 12 on-air and online for the latest coverage on the high winds.


Abilene, about 3 miles north of I-70 at the Jeep Rd Exit. "It burned pasture ground and a few outbuildings," said Hazel Knott. The rural fire department contained the fire but the cause is undetermined.