Firefighters discuss tactics in battling Highlands wildfire

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HUTCHINSON, Kan. They worked day and night for days on end, fighting to put out one of the state's worst wildfires.

Reno County's Highlands fire burned more than 6,000 acres and destroyed almost one dozen homes. It could have been much worse.

Wednesday, firefighters in Hutchinson explained the tactics they used to battle the blaze.

Firefighters say they knew the Highlands fire was going to be large. They say last year's rain created a lot of fresh growth that created fuel for the blaze.

Volunteers from all over Kansas came to Reno County to help contain the wildfire. During the fight, the main objected was keeping the from from crossing over 56th Avenue and K-61.

"That was one thing I know that was being talked about is why it was so critical at holding it to 56th and K-61, because the fuel just got even thicker and worse, and the houses got more numerous and closer together," Hutchinson firefighter Troy Mueller said. "And it would have been a lot worse if it had jumped the highway, or had jumped 56."

At one point, firefighters say the wall of fire was moving at 20 mph, fuel. To many, they are heroes for their efforts to save lives and more homes from destruction.

"We are very humbled by the amount of support we've seen by the community, but to me, this is our job and what we do," Hutch firefighter Dalton Black says.

Firefighters say there are a few takeaways they would like homeowners to think about in the future when it comes to defending their homes and properties from wildfire.

They say homeowners should create a fire defense before a fire happens. This includes cleaning out gutters of dead, dried up leaves, investing in a sprinkler system you can turn on to wet the grass around your house and cutting down shrubs around your house that could add fuel to the fire.

The State of Kansas says it plans to look at the response to last week's wildfires, the largest wildfire event in the state's history.

The adjutant general says, from the local to state level, first responders will look at what went well and what needs improved.

"Some of it, in this particular case, might be, 'how can we manage dry conditions a little differently with pre-burns or some of those tings that can maybe help mitigate some of the effects of a disaster like this," Kansas Adjutant General Lee Tafanelli says.