Wildfire Coverage Through Monday, March 6

Published: Mar. 7, 2017 at 12:44 PM CST
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UPDATE: 2:30 AM: The Clark County Sheriff posted early Tuesday morning that crews are still working to control the fire near Ashland.

According to the sheriff's office Facebook page, there are power lines down near the town and it is still not safe to enter the town.


UPDATE 12:30 PM: State emergency operations center is giving us more information about current evacuations.

Between 10,000 and 12,000 people in Hutchinson were evacuated Monday due to the wildfire burning north of 30th Avenue, according to the Kansas National Guard. 400 people from Wilson and Dorrance were also evacuated due to a fire near there.

The evacuations in Wilson were lifted Monday night.

The National Guard says crews will monitor burned areas overnight to prevent flare-ups.


UPDATE 11:15 PM: Fire crews across the state worked through much of the day Monday and are expected to continue well into Tuesday as they battle to contain wildfires, impacting hundreds of people and several counties.

Monday, we heard several reports of property being destroyed by wildfires, but we have yet to confirm the full scope of the fires and the extent of damage. Among the damage that has been confirmed was to a mobile home property in Dodge City. We're told no one was hurt, but some goats, chickens and a pony were killed in the blaze.

Following up Tuesday, we have crews in Ness, Clark Rooks and Reno counties, catching up with impacted residents, many of whom hope to return home after wildfires forced them to evacuate Monday.

Our team coverage continues early Tuesday with Eyewitness News this morning. You can follow how events have unfolded with the wildfires with our live-blog updates below:

UPDATE 10:50 PM: The Nickerson school district (USD 309) joins Buhler and South Central (USD 300) in canceling classes Tuesday due to wildfires.


UPDATE 10:40 PM: Reno County Emergency Management says at this point, donations of food, water and snacks are not needed as these items are taken care of for people who had to evacuate from their homes Monday.

Evacuations also continue from Ashland and Englewood in Clark County and Protection in Comanche County. An emergency dispatcher in Comanche County says residents in the area likely will not be able to return to their homes until tomorrow (Tuesday).


UPDATE 10:20 PM: The Buhler school district (USD 303) has canceled school for Tuesday due to area wildfires. School is still on for the Hutchinson school district.


UPDATE: 10 PM: North of Hutchinson in Reno County, the flames are fading way, but the worry is not. The evacuation order near Hutchinson includes an area from Monroe to K-61 and 30th Avenue to 108th.

Some who were evacuated from their homes Monday say they wish they had never left because they would be out hosing down the roofs and yards of their homes, taking action to protect their property from the fire. But, they said, the evacuation was mandatory.


UPDATE 9:45 PM: The Rooks County Sheriff's Office says there are still active fires in the area and some structures were lost. There have been no reports of injuries. Rekindling remains a big concern as strong winds continue.

Late Monday afternoon, about 128 inmates at the minimum security Stockton Correctional Facility were evacuated and transported to the facility in Norton.


UPDATE 9:30 PM: Flames from the wildfire threatening homes just north of Hutchinson appear to be starting to die out. Eyewitness News reporter Deedee Sun says a red glow is still visible, and flames occasionally are shooting up,but the situation appears more calm than it did an hour ago.

Residents who evacuated from their homes Monday are told they can check the Reno County Emergency Management Facebook page for updates or the Reno County Sheriff's Office Facebook page. Residents can also call the temporary Emergency Operations Center at 844-834-3659. Emergency officials say this non-emergency phone number will be manned around the clock until further notice.

The Hutchinson Police Department says an alert calling for evacuations from the community was sent out by mistake and at this time, there is no call for further evacuations.

Residents in the Hutchinson area who were not evacuated Monday evening are told to stay inside and multiple roads in the area are closed.


UPDATE 9 PM: People who did not evacuate from the town of Ashland Monday afternoon are told to shelter in place. Emergency management in Clark County says there is wildfire about one mile east and one mile west of town.

Clark County Emergency Management says eight structures were destroyed in Englewood as well as multiple farm houses and ranches. There is no word on injuries.


UPDATE 8:40 PM: Kansas Highway Patrol Trooper Tod Hileman reports people evacuated from the town of Wilson are cleared to return home.


UPDATE 8:30 PM: South Central Schools, USD 300 in Comanche County, is canceled Tuesday due to area wildfires.

There are also more road closures in Ford County, blocking traffic going south from Dodge City. The road closures include Highway 283 and 2nd Street, east to Trail and the Highway 56 bypass to 117 Road.


UPDATE 8:15 PM: Crews continue to go defensive battling a wildfire in the Highlands area north of Hutchinson. Strong winds continue to fuel the flames, but northwest wind gusts have lightened a little from about 51 mph to 38 mph.

In Ellsworth County, Interstate 70 near Wilson has reopened after being closed due to a wildfire.


UPDATE 8 PM: The State Emergency Operations Center says active fires Monday have been reported in the following counties: Clark, Cheyenne, Comanche, Ellsworth, Finney, Ford, Hodgeman, Lane, Meade, Ness, Pratt, Pottawatomie, Rawlins, Reno, Rice, Rooks, Russell, Seward, Shawnee, Smith and Stevens counties.

"Although some fires have been mostly contained, fire crews will still monitor the burned areas for flareups, the State Emergency Operations Center says.

Federal Fire Management Assistance Grants have been approved for Clark, Comanche, Ellsworth, Ford, Ness and Rooks counties.

The Kansas National Guard deployed four Black Hawk helicopters to assist with dousing flames. The State Emergency Operations Center says two of the helicopters were in Reno County with two others on stand-by.


UPDATE 7:55 PM: The American Red Cross has opened three shelters for families affected by wildfires in Reno, Comanche and Ford counties. The shelter in Reno County is at 4501 West Fourth Street. The shelter in Comanche County is at Coldwater High School and the shelter in Ford County is at the Dodge City Community College Student Activity Building (the large dome), 2501 N. 14th Avenue.


UPDATE 7:45 PM: Fire crews in Reno County are forming a line along Hutchinson's north city limits, trying to make sure wildfire in the area does not spread into the city.

We're told one homeowner in the Highlands area made an emergency call after a fire got within about 100 feet of his home. The supervisor of the golf course in the Highlands neighborhood says he's worked to water down grass in the area, hoping to keep fire from spreading to the golf course and homes in the area.

Storm Team 12 says the approximate 51-mph wind gusts are expected to let up, but there likely won't be much of a break for the next three to four hours.


UPDATE 7:15 PM: With fire again impacting the Hutchinson area, Reno County Emergency Management says people in the area of Monroe to K-61 from 95th Avenue to 30th Ave in Hutchinson, should be prepared to evacuate. There were also evacuations from 108th Avenue to the Hutchinson city limits and Plum to Lorraine.

Emergency management says those affected should proceed to an evacuation site at 4501 W. 4th in Hutchinson.


UPDATE 7:05 PM: A fire one mile east of the Wilson exit along I-70 is moving southeast. Kansas Highway Patrol Trooper Tod Hileman says crews from several counties are responding. Earlier Monday, residents of Wilson were evacuated.


UPDATE 6:50 PM: An emergency manager tells us wildfires in Reno County are forcing evacuations from 108th Avenue to the Hutchinson city limits and Plum to Lorraine.

We're told residents are not being evacuated from the Highlands, but people living in the east part of that area are advised to head to the west side of the Highlands.


UPDATE 6:30 PM: Comanche County emergency dispatch tells us the town of Protection is being evacuated from Road 5 to the west due to a threat from wild fire. Protection is about 15 miles east of Ashland, which along with Englewood, was evacuated in Clark County.


UPDATE 6:15 PM: The Rooks County Sheriff's Office says residents in the south part of Stockton who were evacuated Monday afternoon have the all-clear to return home.


UPDATE 6:10 PM: The Hutchinson Post reports another fire has been reported near 82nd and Hendricks, near where the fire in the Highlands area started Sunday afternoon. The call of this latest fire was reported about 4:45 p.m. The extent of the fire is unknown as it is being driven by west/southwest winds of up to 40 mph.


UPDATE 6:05 PM: Eyewitness News reporter Brittni Thomason is near Wilson where visibility remains low and strong winds continue. It's a similar situation in Clark County where the towns of Ashland and Englewood have been evacuated.


UPDATE 6 PM: Multiple fires continue to burn in Ford County, including in the areas of Spearville and Bucklin, as well as just south of Dodge City. The Ford county administrator says the Dodge City Community College Student Activities Center is opened for families and individuals that may be displaced.


UPDATE 5:50 PM: A fire in Rice, Reno and McPherson counties is up to 95-percent contained as crews continue to put out hot spots. Within the past few hours, we've learned the fire came within feet of homes. Crews were also able to protect nearby structures after containing a fire in Pratt County. They are closely watching a burr pile to make sure no embers spread as the fire burns itself out.


UPDATE: 545 PM: Interstate 70 remains closed between Russell and mile marker 209, east of Wilson due to the large grass fire in the area and winds gusting up to about 50 mph.

The town of Wilson was evacuated, but we do not know the extent of possible damage, or of any possible injuries.


UPDATE: 5:35 PM: Officials near Medicine Lodge tell us a grass fire north of town has been contained. Jerry McNamar with the Barber County Health Department says one person was treated for smoke inhalation.


UPDATE: 5:30 PM: We're hearing form viewers concerning a wildfire north of Medicine Lodge in Barber County as we continue to monitor fires spreading throughout the state.

Strong winds will continue to stick around for several more hours. Storm Team 12 says wind speeds are measured at 30 to 45 mph, but gusts are even higher than that.


UPDATE 5:20 PM: Emergency dispatchers in Ness County tell us fires have damaged three homes in Ransom. No injuries have been reported and there are no evacuation orders, but people outside the community are told to stay away. Roads around the western part of Ransom are closed.


UPDATE 4:55 PM: A wildfire near Wilson Lake has spread to the median on I-70, closing the interstate in the area. UPDATE 4:55 PM: A wildfire near Wilson Lake has spread to the median on I-70, closing the interstate in the area. KHP Trooper Tod Hileman says the fire jumped I-70 and is headed south toward Wilson, necessitating the evacuation.

The National Weather Service in Dodge City reports a wind shift has occurred at Clark County State Lake, and the wildfire south of Dodge, threatening part of the town, is now burning southeast.


UPDATE 4:45 PM: Ford County Administrator JD Gilbert says law enforcement and other first responders are working to contain fires in Spearville, Bucklin and just southeast of Dodge City. There is also a fire that may be moving north towards Bloom from Clark County, Gilbert says.

The county administrator says the Dodge City Community College Student Activities Center is opened for families and individuals that may be displaced.

The following areas have been evacuated in Ford County:

* Green Acres mobile home park in Dodge City

* Wilroads Garden Elementary School

* 110 Spring and Marshall in Dodge City

* Highway 156 near the Dodge City Raceway Park

* South 113 Rd. and Highway 56

--Gilbert says Fort Dodge may also need to be evacuated.

Road closures in the Dodge City area include 2nd and McArtor, McArtor and Minneola Road, Trail and South Bypass, and Highway 56 and Lariat. Gilbert says Highway 50 is closed to westbound traffic from 128 Road.

Gilbert says there has been one reported injury related to a house fire. He says Fire/EMS personnel have been battling exhaustion.

Assistance from the American Red Cross and the Kansas Division of Emergency Management have been requested.


UPDATE 4:25 PM; KHP Trooper Ben Gardner says troopers are assisting with evacuating residents from the City of Wilson in Ellsworth County due to an approaching wildfire.


UPDATE 4:20 PM; Students from Dodge City's Wilroads Garden Elementary School are being transported to the Civic Center in town. Parents are asked to bring an ID for identification to pick up their children at the Civic Center.


UPDATE 4:10 PM: The Clark County Sheriff's Office says residents of the towns of Englewood and Ashland are evacuated due to incoming wildfires. Ashland residents are told to head east to Coldwater High School. Englewood residents are advised to head south of of the state line.

In Rooks County, US-183 between Plainville and Stockton is closed due to wildfires in that area. Dodge


UPDATE 4 PM: Fire officials provide an update on the continued efforts to contain fires in Reno County. Officials say the fires in the north part of the county are mostly contained, but there are continued challenges with the strong wind gusts as crews monitor hot spots.


UPDATE 3:38 PM.: Due to fire in Dodge City, the school district asks that any students living south of McArtor in south Dodge City, stay a school until further notice, per the Dodge City Fire Department and Dodge City Police Department. Dodge City school buses will not take any students home, the district says.


UPDATE 3:30 PM.: Multiple fires are burning across Kansas today.

Several of them are causing people to have to leave their homes.

The Rooks County Sheriff's Office says crews are battling a very large grass fire west of Stockton and south of U-24 highway. U-24 is closed at this time. If you are a residence of this area use caution and prepare to evacuate.

In Ford County, Storm Team 12 chaser Ed O'Neal reports at least three fires. He says they're located near Spearville, Ford and Dodge City. He shot video of the fire burning at least one outbuilding and threatening several homes.

Ford County dispatchers confirm they are working at least two of those fires. Viewers have sent in photos and video of the fires near Spearville and Dodge City.

A fire at the Cullison cotton gin is finally under control in Pratt County. Crews spent much of the morning and early afternoon fighting the fire that spread from the gin, along the railroad, and into the pasture. Several homes were threatened in that area. No one was hurt.


UPDATE 2:45 PM: Pratt County Emergency Director Mark McManaman says the fire that started about 9 a.m., at a burr pile at the cotton gin, spread near Highway 54, "extremely fast," before units were on scene.

McManaman says crews contained the fire about 1 p.m. to the area of the gin, but worry embers and wind could start it back up near the highway.

The emergency director says there were evacuations to a few homes, but crews have been able to keep fire away from residences and cotton gin buildings.


There are multiple fire departments helping fight a large fire in Pratt County.

A Pratt County dispatcher said the cotton gin caught fire east of the town of Cullison. The cotton gin is located on the south side of Hwy 54, and the fire has crossed the highway and is headed north in a pasture and along railroad tracks.

When asked how many fire departments were on scene, the dispatcher responded there was "every fire department coming from around."

The City of Pratt Fire Department posted to its Facebook page that Cullison, Pratt Township 12, Sawyer, Coats, Byers, Sun City, Lake City, Iuka, Medicine Lodge, Macksville, and Kiowa fire departments are all fighting the fire.

"Treacherous conditions fighting these fires. All traffic shut down on West 54 due to smoke," reads the post.

The Kansas Department of Transportation and the Kansas Highway Patrol has also been called out to assist with traffic control.


MONDAY 11:30 A.M. UPDATE: The Kansas Division of Emergency Management has partially activated the State Emergency Operations Center in Topeka to assist three Kansas counties with firefighting efforts for several grassfires that began March 4.

Governor Sam Brownback signed a state of disaster emergency declaration March 5 for Reno, Rice and McPherson counties to expedite state assistance. KDEM has requested the Kansas National Guard to support the Kansas Forestry Service. Two Black Hawk helicopters equipped with 660-gallon Bambi buckets and 10 soldiers are working out of the Hutchinson airport, scooping water from a pond on private land to drop on the fires. Two additional Black Hawks are on stand-by.

An Incident Management Team is supporting the local incident commander.

Multiple grass fires affected Reno County beginning on March 4. Two fires were 100 percent contained but later rekindled. The Jupiter Hills and Highlands Area Community fires spread into McPherson and Rice Counties, burning approximately 6,000 acres. As of 10:30 a.m. today, the fires in Reno and Rice Counties are 80 percent contained and McPherson County is 90 percent contained.

About 300 residents of the Highlands Area Community, approximately four miles north of Hutchinson, were evacuated, but have since been allowed to return to their homes.

Local fire departments and mutual aid are assisting with fire suppression.

Area residents are encouraged to monitor their local news and weather stations for information about potential wind shifts and other weather changes.


MONDAY AM UPDATE: One family was not able to return to their home in this area because of damage. Arrangements were made for that family.

Fire crews will be back on the scene today to attack the fire in Rice County because it is not yet contained. They are also going to concentrate on the Jupiter Hills fire, which is around 80% contained.

Firefighters are urging people who don't belong in the area to stay away and give firefighters the room they need to get the job done.

It is estimated nearly 2700 acres have been burned in the Highlands area in Reno and Rice counties.

Residents in the areas are being asked to stay on their property and not go into wooded areas.

Residents are also asked to use a garden hose to put out any embers that may fall on their property and not call 911 unless there is an active fire currently threatening a structure.

The county has declared a state of emergency which will help bring in state resources to help. The Kansas State Incident Management team is in Reno County to assist with managing these counties for Reno and Rice Counties.


10 PM UPDATE: Hundreds of people just north of Hutchinson are starting to return home after evacuating earlier Sunday because of a large wildfire that burned about 2,000 acres.

Ahead of returning home, people evacuated Sunday say they are scared because they want answers. Now that they can go home, they are hopeful they will be getting those answers.

Kristi Keeling and Ray Kroeker were among the evacuated residents who spent the unsettling day at the shelter set up by the American Red Cross.

"There's still not a sense of good relief," Keeling says ahead of getting home. "I won't be relieved until I know my cats are safe."

Keeling and Kroeker were running errands when they received a text message about a fire in their Highlands neighborhood.

While they later received word that no one was hurt and no homes were lost, Keeling was still concerned Sunday night.

"The fire could spark up again if the wind comes back. I've seen brush fires and grass fires before, but not really prepared for it today," she says.


8:30 PM UPDATE: The Reno County Sheriff's Offices says it is estimated that the wildfires north of Hutchinson burned nearly 2,000 acres in northern Reno County and southern Rice County Sunday.

The sheriff's office says no homes were destroyed and there was minor damage to less than 10 homes in the Highlands area.

At 9 p.m., the sheriff's office says it will begin to let residents in the Highlands area return home.

After returning to the area, residents are advised to stay in their yards, driveways or homes and not to go into the woods. The sheriff's office says residents should use a garden hose to put out any embers that come into their yards. Two task forces will be monitoring the area overnight.

The Jupiter Hills fire Saturday, also north of Hutchinson, burned about 1,200 acres, bringing the total acreage burned to more than 3,000 between the Highlands and Jupiter Hills fires. The Reno County Sheriff's Office says the Jupiter Hills fire is about 80 percent contained.

All roads except for 69th Avenue from Old K-61 to Mayfield, and 56th Avenue to Old K-61 to the dead end, are open, the sheriff's office says. No evacuations are being implemented.

Reno County has declared a state of emergency which the sheriff's office says "will help bring in state resources to help."

Critical fire conditions continue for the next few days. Residents will continue to see smoke and fire crews working in the area throughout the day Monday.

The sheriff's office continues to ask the public to stay out of the area.


5:45 PM UPDATE: Several hundred people in the Highlands area near Hutchinson remain evacuated, but are expected to be cleared to return home in the next few hours, a Reno County Sheriff's captain says.

With windy, dry conditions continuing, the captain says he is not sure how long it will be until firefighters can be done for good.


4:50 PM UPDATE: Hutchinson's Pizza Ranch restaurant announces it is doing its part to help law enforcement and firefighters who have been busy trying to contain wildfires over the past few days.

The restaurant says is is offering law enforcement and firefighters free lunch or dinner buffets Sunday through Wednesday.


4:20 PM UPDATE: The American Red Cross announces that it has opened a reception center for residents that have been affected by the wildfires in Reno County. The reception center is at the First Church of the Nazarene, 4290 N. Monroe in Hutchinson.

Anyone evacuating from the fires to a reception center should bring essential items for each member of the family. These items may include:

• Prescriptions and emergency medications

• Foods that meet unusual dietary requirements

• Identification to show residence is in affected area and important personal documents

• Extra clothing, pillows, blankets, hygiene supplies and other comfort items

• Supplies needed for children and infants, such as diapers, formula and toys

• Special items for family members who are elderly or disabled


4:10 PM UPDATE: The Reno County Sheriff's Office reports no major structural damage as crews work to contain wildfire near the Highlands Golf Club north of Hutchinson. Reno County Sheriff's Capt. Steve Lutz says there was damage to the siding of one home.

Lutz says other property damage is primarily to fencing and propane tanks. He says there no explosions from the tanks.

Lutz says the Red Cross has stepped up to provide assistance for crews on scene.

Briefing on Reno County Highlands Fire with Captain Steve Lutz

Posted by Brittni Thomason on Sunday, March 5, 2017


3:40 PM UPDATE: Crews from several departments continue to work to contain a wildfire that moved into the Highland Golf Club area north of Hutchinson Sunday afternoon.

The golf course and residences in the area have been evacuated. The Reno County Sheriff's Office asks the public to avoid the area.


3:00 PM UPDATE: A propane tank and structure on fire north of Hutchinson. Police advising evacuations.

It is unknown how many people have been evacuated at this time.

We have crews on the way.


2:00 PM UPDATE: Hutchinson police department advising residents in the Highlands Area to evacuate due to another wildfire.

The area affected is near the Crazy Horse Golf Course.


12:00 PM UPDATE: Sunday morning crews remain in the area working hot spots and keeping the "Jupiter Hills Fire" under control.

Fire is still 80% contained.

Residents will continue to see smoke and fire crews working in the area throughout the day. Authorities are asking residents to stay out of the area.

Three outbuildings have been damaged.


AM UPDATE: Fire crews remain in the area north of Hutch working numerous hot spots and keeping the fire under control.

Authorities say the fire is 80% contained.

All roads are now open. No evacuations have been implemented at this time. Authorities ask that you still avoid the area while they are working to completely extinguish the fire.

The fire was first reported around 2:30 Saturday afternoon. Large smoke plumes could be seen for several miles.

The fire was crossing 56th Avenue a mile north of the original location when crews first arrived.

Fire crews were able to stop the fire from progressing to 69th Avenue one mile to the north. The fire managed to ignite several times north of 69th Avenue; however, crews were able to maintain those patches.

Two structures have been damaged in the fire--both sheds. One is a total loss and the other has significant damage.

An estimated 1,200 acres have burned. At one point in the fire 37 units were responding and 90 firefighters were on scene.

Crews from all over Reno County, McPherson, Harvey, Sedgwick, Ellsworth, and Barton counties responded.

The Reno County Sheriff’s department, Hutchinson Police Department, Buhler Police Department, South Hutchinson Police Department and Kansas Highway Patrol assisted with traffic control.

The county has declared a state of emergency which will help bring in state resources to help. An incident management team has been called to assist.

Authorities say they are very concerned with the weather for the next several days. Crews will be out working to quickly and safely contain and extinguish the fire.