KS wildfires spark in windy, dry conditions

CLARK COUNTY, Kan. (KWCH) Update Monday night:

Margie Doris

Crews in Clark County were able to contain most of the wildfire that is estimated to have burnt about 1,600 acres near Ashland.

As of 6 p.m., the wind is also starting to die down, but crews expect to stay in the area through the night to monitor hotspots. Fire officials in Clark County say crews were able to fight the blaze aggressively as there wasn't an immediate threat to many structures.

"Today was a good day. I mean, seriously, if you compare today to a year ago, today is a really good day," Clark County Emergency Manager Millie Fudge says.

One year ago Tuesday (March 6) a fire in the same area burned more than 400,000 acres.

Fudge credits firefighters from about 12 departments for keeping another wildfire near Ashland under control.

"When you compare today to 425,000 acres last year, and 1,600 acres this year, this is a good day," Fudge says.

Monday's fire started about five miles west of Ashland and moved south, avoiding people and structures for the most part.

Because of that, crews were aggressive in fighting the fire. The Oklahoma Forest Service sent a helicopter to drop water and by sundown, the fire was mostly contained.

Officials on scene believe a truck started Monday's fire by driving through tall grass.

"You can't drive in grass," Fudge says. "You can't drive in short grass or tall grass because that fire is going to start. When you have 20, 30 or even 50 mile-per-hour winds, it's going to take hundreds of men and trucks to get it stopped.


Tuesday will be another windy day, but the wind direction is not expected to shift from Monday's wind.


Update 4:20 p.m.:

A busy day for crews battling to contain Kansas wildfires continues as Monday afternoon approaches the evening.

The largest fire is west of Ashland in Clark County, but that's not the only location that's required an emergency response.

Monday afternoon, crews fought to contain fire to hay bales near Moscow in Stevens County. On its Facebook page, the Kansas All Hazards Incident Management Team shared photos of crews fighting to gain an upper hand on the fire and protect nearby properties.

In Smith County, a grass fire reported near the Home on Range cabin caused the closure of Highway 8 north of the US-36 junction. Crews were able to contain the blaze before it damaged any structures, but the Kansas Department of Transportation warns the fire danger remains "extremely high." T

The threat is expected to continue for at least the next few days for most of Kansas.

The Kansas Division of Emergency Management says in addition to avoiding outside burning in conditions like this, people should also take caution with when parking vehicles.

"Don't park cars, trucks, or other vehicles on dry grass or too close to shrubs," the the department says. "Exhaust systems can reach more than 1,000 degrees (Fahrenheit); brush fires can star with temperatures as low as 500 degrees (Fahrenheit).


Crews are fighting a grass fire west of Ashland.

Allison Kuhn, a public information officer for Clark County Emergency Management, says it started before noon north of Highway 160, about five miles west of Ashland.

Highway 160 is closed west Ashland starting at the 160/283 junction.

Kuhn says the wind is blowing south and no towns are in the fire's path, but a lot of ranches are.

She doesn't know how big the fire is, but crews are trying to determine how far south it has gone.

Ford County Fire & EMS said it has crews from Station 1 and 7 headed to the fire.

"On this day one year ago, now known as Black Monday, fires ravaged the area with active fires in and around our county. Today, weather conditions are actually worse than that day," the agency said in a post on Facebook.

The National Weather Service - Dodge City tweeted a photo and said the fire could be observed on a shortwave channel of the GOES satellite, around 5 miles west of Ashland, along Highway 160.