Help from across KS, beyond gives crews upper hand on Reno County wildfire

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RENO COUNTY, Kan. As the wildfire in Reno County starts to wind down, some firefighters are returning to a normal schedule for the first time in days.

Crews from all over Kansas and even resources from South Dakota and Colorado came in to help.

Hutchinson firefighters are calling the help, priceless. Hutchinson Fire Capt. Wendell Goertzen has been fighting fires for 23 years.

"Even the most seasoned veteran, when you see a plume like that, it's just daunting," he says of what he experienced Monday night. "it gets the heart beating, the heart pounding."

Crews had to form a line and light a backfire to stop the flames from spreading.

"It took probably 75 units along 56th Street there just to keep it from jumping 56th, and we were successful," Goertzen says.

The fire continued burning Tuesday and resources from across the state poured in.

"We have to have them," he says of the help from outside the area. "They're priceless. When you live in the sandy hills like we have here, it takes a village. It takes a village to put out fire like this."

The priority for all the crews was saving structures. Nine homes were lost, but the collective effort of firefighters in Reno County kept that total from being much worse.

"(Monday night) we were thinking, 'how many homes did we lose? And I guessed 25, 30," Goertzen says. "And I told the guys I was with, if we lost anything less than 10, it's a miracle. It's a miracle."

Wednesday, Goertzen says he's probably slept about six to 10 hours over the last three days, and he was actually on vacation when he got called in.