Wind-driven wildfires race through Kansas Wednesday

Photo: Hutchinson Kansas Fire Department

A series of wildfires raced through grasslands in rural Kansas Wednesday, scorching swaths of land and drawing local firefighters and the Kansas National Guard.

The fires began midday Wednesday, primarily in Rice County in central Kansas. Fanned by gusty winds, the fire quickly became visible on radar imagery and the GOES-16 Satellite, as shown in these images from the National Weather Service’s Wichita bureau.

“Wind is the huge factor in the tall grass,”¬†Rice County Emergency Management Director Greg Kline told reporters at the scene of one of the fires. “Access to some of these locations is very tough at times.”

Details about the estimated number of acres burned were not immediately available. But Kline said the three separate fires in Rice County were estimated to be about 2 miles wide and about 4 miles long at their farthest points.

Video of the news conference was posted by The Hutchinson News. 

Neighboring counties were assisting local crews, and firefighters were expected to be in the area through the night.

A crop-duster was also being used to help.

Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer on Wednesday morning made an emergency declaration for three of the fires burning in Rice County and deployed Black Hawk helicopters from the Kansas National Guard to assist in the response.

Much of the state has been under red flag warnings in recent days.

Plus, the entire state is currently classified as “abnormally dry” with a large pocket of southern Kansas categorized as being in an “extreme drought,”

Drought monitor
Drought monitor, March 1, 2018. National Drought Mitigation Center.

Very high and extreme fire danger is anticipated for Thursday and Friday, with forecasted temperatures in the 70s and wind gusts up to 30 mph. Cooler temperatures and rain could be on the way for the weekend, according to the National Weather Service.

Still a huge wild fire in Rice County as of 308PM. Several fire crews are battling it. The smoke plume extends through McPherson, Dickinson and Saline Counties.

Posted by WIBW Jeremy Goodwin on Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Author: Jason Pohl

In addition to writing for Wildfire Today, Jason Pohl reports on public safety-related issues for The Arizona Republic and USA TODAY.

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