Kan. governor discusses efforts to contain wildfires

HAMILTON, Kan. (KWCH) Wednesday night:

Multiple grass fires kept crews busy for much of the afternoon in Greenwood County near Hamilton. Those crews were able to get the fires under control with help from the Army National Guard and its Blackhawk helicopters. The Blackhawks are proving to be a valuable asset so far in this year's wildfire season.

"We've had over 50 fires across Kansas in the last few days," Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer said during his visit Wednesday afternoon to Greenwood County. "Hamilton right here was in serious danger this morning. With the winds and fire coming up, it was coming towards the city's edge and the community came together and they put out the fire."

Colyer met with Hamilton residents to discuss the fires that crews intensely battled for hours. The Blackhawk helicopters were called in to help extinguish fires in areas that were difficult for crews to access.

In all, seven Blackhawks responded to the Greenwood County fires with more on standby across the state. Kansas' Adjutant General's Office says the purchase of additional "Bambi Buckets" for the helicopters is helping crews control this year's fires.

To this point in 2018, Kansas wildfires have been contained. But Colyer points out the wildfire season is just beginning and the state plans to be aggressive in its response.

"We're gonna be real aggressive early on," Colyer says. "If you're aggressive on these things, then you can get in control of them a lot faster and hopefully, we can avoid the big disasters that we have had."

The winds have presented a serious challenge to fighting recent wildfires, but it hasn't grounded the Blackhawks, which can handle sustained winds up to about 52 miles per hour.


1:00 p.m.

Fire crews say the grass fires in Greenwood County are now contained.

Crews are battling multiple grass fires near the town of Hamilton, Kansas on Wednesday.

The Greenwood County Sheriff sent a reminder on their official Facebook account reminding drivers to stay away from those fire areas.

Deputies say traffic could interfere with firefighting operations and endanger personnel. If you drive past a roadblock and it interferes with firefighting operations you can be arrested.

Officials say two Kansas Army National Guard Black Hawk helicopters and eight soldiers from Topeka are headed for Greenwood County to help fire crews.

We have a crew headed to the scene to gather more information.