All Weather News

Wildfire Burns Nearly 620 Square Miles in Kansas & Oklahoma

24 Mar 2016, 3:26 pm

CeVR9R8UYAEAt55Wildfires in south central Kansas still pose a threat, but conditions have improved. Fires in Comanche County are now reported under control. Conditions in Barber County have also improved, though fires continue to be monitored by fire crews. Power has been restored to Sun City and Lake City in Barber County, and residents who had evacuated their homes are being allowed to return.

A wildfire that threatened the Barber County town of Medicine Lodge went around the town on the north and south sides, sparing some 800-1000 structures. One home and one outbuilding were destroyed by flames on the outskirts of town.

The wildfire, which started in northern Oklahoma March 22, moved into Kansas and burned tens of thousands acres, mostly in Comanche and Barber counties.

Progress was made on the fire last night near Medicine Lodge and north near the leading edges of the fire. Local firefighters expect to see fire activity today, but are not expecting it to be like yesterday. There will be hot spots for several days that have a strong potential to reignite areas. Two flares ups occurred this morning. One home was destroyed, and the occupants have relocated to another house. One family is displaced and is staying at a local hotel with American Red Cross support.

The situation in Reno County has de-escalated to the point where agencies involved in the response have been able send some of their staff home. The county emergency manager said he would rate the fire containment at almost 100 percent. An assessment of damage shows there were only two structures damaged, a home and one unknown structure. All damaged power lines have been restored and fire crews are currently putting out isolated fire spots.

Officials in Comanche County report the fire flared back up around 6 a.m. The county is using county resources and has additional county resources available. Officials estimate approximately 3,500 acres have burned, damaging trees and fences, but there has been no damage to structures.

An overnight perimeter was established in Harvey County. County officials are working with multiple incident management teams to coordinate command staff. Three taskforce groups are covering approximately 30 square miles of land. Containment is estimated to be at 70 percent. The main focus is 15 square miles of the area that is actively burning. Two additional focus areas involve 10-12 residences. One summer cabin has been destroyed.

Westar Energy reports about 130 customers without power in Newton. There are four company crews and five contract crews working to restore power; power is expected to be nearly fully restored by approximately 5-6 p.m. today. However, power crews are not going to work oil field areas while there is still a fire risk.

Gov. Sam Brownback declared a State of Disaster Emergency for the area threatened by the wildfires. The declaration authorizes state resources to assist communities affected by the fires.

The Kansas Division of Emergency Management has activated the state Emergency Operations Center in Topeka to continue monitoring and to coordinate the emergency response with local, state and federal agencies.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and Maj. Gen. Lee Tafanelli, Kansas adjutant general, address the media at the State Defense Building in Topeka March 24 regarding the wildfire in south central Kansas.

Posted by Kansas Adjutant General's Department on Thursday, March 24, 2016

(Video: Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and Maj. Gen. Lee Tafanelli, Kansas adjutant general, address the media at the State Defense Building in Topeka March 24 regarding the wildfire in south central Kansas.
Headline image: Oklahoma Forestry)

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