Above: The red and yellow dots represent heat detected by a satellite in the 24 hours before 11:30 a.m. CST March 7, 2017.
Published at 11:29 a.m. MST March 7, 2017
On Monday a cold front brought very strong winds to the plains of Kansas and the northern portions of Texas and Oklahoma. Gusting in some areas at over 50 mph and accompanied by low relative humidities, any wildfires that were ignited spread very rapidly, and often exceeded the capabilities of firefighters.
The largest fire started east of Beaver, Oklahoma and ran to the northeast into Oklahoma. Ashland, 40 miles away, had to be evacuated. It is not 100 percent clear if the fire in Ashland was the same fire that started in Oklahoma, but it likely was.
After the cold front passed, the southwest wind shifted 90 degrees to come out of the northwest, which converted the right flank of the fire into the head as it turned and ran to the southeast.
The fire burned in the following counties: in Oklahoma, Beaver and Harper; in Kansas, Meade, Comanche, Clark, and possibly Ford. As of 3:16 a.m. CST satellite data, the fire was still very active in some areas.
The map below shows heat detected by a satellite in the 24 hours before 11:30 a.m. CST March 7, 2017. We drew a red-tinted polygon around the heat icons for the fire east of Beaver. The satellite only collects data twice a day at roughly 12-hour intervals. As the fire spreads rapidly through mostly grass with the strong wind, it can cool and not be detected by the next satellite overflight. We don’t know if everything within our red polygon was all one fire, and even if it is there likely are many areas, some large, that did not burn. So with all those disclaimers, the red polygon includes about 600,000 acres.
The red polygon we drew around the wildfire east of Laverne, OK encompases about 30,000 acres, but the same disclaimers about the fire east of Beaver also apply here.
Red Flag Warnings for strong winds and low humidities have been issued again Tuesday for Kansas and Oklahoma as well as portions of Colorado, Nebraska, South Dakota, Iowa, Illinois, and Missouri. The wind is predicted to decrease significantly on Wednesday.