Wildfire east of Hutchinson, Kansas prompts evacuations

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Approximately 30 air miles northwest of Wichita, Kansas

5 p.m. CT March 5, 2022

Map Cottonwood Complex
The red squares represent the approximate location of heat detected by a satellite at the Cottonwood Complex of fires, 1:12 p.m. CT March 5, 2022. The fire is east of Hutchinson, Kansas.

A wildfire that was reported east of Hutchinson, Kansas at about 12:30 p.m. Saturday has prompted evacuations. It started in the 800 block of Willison Road in Reno County and later spread east into Harvey County.

From The Hutchinson News:

“With Catastrophic Fire Danger and wind gusts upwards of 40 mph, firefighters had their hands full on arrival,” said Chief Doug Hanen, chief of operations for the Hutchinson Fire Department, at a 4:30 p.m. press briefing. “Units immediately engaged in structure protection and assisting residents in evacuating.”

The fire eventually crossed Buhler Road and spread rapidly through the Cottonwood Hills Golf Course, Hanen said. Winds then shifted to the west, making multiple fire fronts.

In the area of Fourth Avenue and Palamino Road, fire crews rescued several people from their homes or cars, but some residents also refused to evacuate.

Fire east of Hutchinson, Kansas
Fire east of Hutchinson, Kansas, at 1:55 p.m March 5, 2022. Image from First National Bank-Hutchinson camera.

There are reports that multiple homes were damaged or destroyed and several residents suffered burns.

The Kansas Forest Service mobilized an air tanker, Tanker 95, a privately owned S-2 formerly operated by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. It is now based in Kansas.

Air Tanker 95, an S-2
Air Tanker 95, an S-2, comes in for reloading with water after battling the Cottonwood Complex of fires east of Hutchinson, KS, March 5, 2022. Image by Heath Hensley.

The Kansas Division of Emergency Management has activated two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters from the Kansas Army National Guard to assist firefighters beginning Sunday. The helicopters will have external water buckets.

Gov. Laura Kelly issued a verbal declaration of disaster emergency March 3, due to the potential for wildland fires in the state on Friday and Saturday. The declaration allows the state to preposition aerial firefighting assets from the Kansas Forest Service for a quicker response to any fires that may begin.

The video below shows Tanker 95 arriving to be reloaded with water. Smoke from the fire can be seen in the background.

The area is under a Red Flag Warning on Saturday. Strong winds were predicted to come out of the west at 25 to 35 mph with gusts to 50 mph, with relative humidity as low as 10 to 15 percent.

Red Flag Warnings, March 5, 2022
Red Flag Warnings, March 5, 2022. NWS.

On February 8 another fire in the same general area ran for about two miles pushed by winds gusting at more than 30 mph. Shortly after it started Fire Marshal Michael Cain was investigating to determine if it was caused by embers from some of the 75 brush piles that were ignited on private land.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

8 thoughts on “Wildfire east of Hutchinson, Kansas prompts evacuations”

    1. And we had 2 other fires within 2 miles of this one just prior a few weeks after people lit them in the 4″ of snow, then forgot about them. Time for punishment around here.

  1. Update Monday morning from Hutchinson, with snow/sleet on the ground.

    35 homes, 92 outbuildings, 110 cars destroyed in fire, 1 fatality, 2 burn victims.

    Saturday was 76 degrees, dry with gusts to 45 from the SW that changed with the fronts arrival to west, then NW. Area is sandy with huge cottonwoods and thick with red cedars, with homes on dead end dirt roads almost a mile long. People trying to escape left burning vehicles in the middle of the roads.

  2. Sounds like the Pike NF or PSICC is getting ready to come out there and start prescribed burning all over the grasslands out there. They are pulling their people from here in Oklahoma so they can go up there and burn grass.

    Doesn’t sound like sound strategic decision making to pull them from here, where we have been making big acres, to go to someplace that is under constant red flags almost guaranteeing the burn will get Cx’d.

    1. Lots of huge cottonwood trees and eastern red cedars with 45 mph winds. Not really time to get dozers in and do things.


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