Wildfires in South Central Kansas have improved but still pose a threat

Photo of fire taken by the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.

TOPEKA (KSNT) — Wildfires in south central Kansas still pose a threat but officials say conditions have improved. Fires in Comanche County are now under control.

Conditions in Barber County have also improved. Residents are allowed to return to their homes in Sun City and Lake City and their power is back on. The wildfire started in Northern Oklahoma Tuesday and moved into Kansas burning tens of thousands of acres in mostly Comanche and Barber counties.

Governor Sam Brownback declared a state of emergency for that area. The Emergency Operations Center in Topeka has been activated to help monitor local, state, and federal response.

9:00 p.m. — The Mayor of Medicine Lodge, a town of 2,000, has called for voluntary evacuations. Two houses on the north edge of the town have been destroyed by the fire, and the remaining 800-1,000 homes and businesses are in danger.    

8:30 p.m. — The Director of Shawnee County Emergency Management and the Topeka Fire Department’s Fire Chief contacted KSNT and told us that the haze we are seeing in Topeka and Northeast Kansas is smoke that’s drifting up from the wildfires down in South Central Kansas. Both said that there are no out of control fires and/or grass fires in Shawnee County right now.

TOPEKA (KSNT) — Governor Sam Brownback has declared a State of Disaster Emergency for portions of South Central Kansas that are threatened by major wildfires.

The declaration authorizes state resources to assist communities affected by the fires.

As of Wednesday evening, local officials reported a level of containment in Comanche County. However, they reported there was no level of containment in Barber County. At that time, the trajectory of the fire threatened the north edge of Medicine Lodge.

The wildfire began on Tuesday and spread into Kansas overnight. It is continuing to burn Barber and Comanche counties. The Kansas Forest Service and Kansas Division of Emergency Management have personnel on the scene providing technical and tactical operation assistance to the counties.

The Kansas Division of Emergency Management is continuing to monitor the situation and is working with local, state and federal agencies to do so.

US-160 is closed between Coldwater and Medicine Lodge and US-281 is closed between Medicine Lodge and the Oklahoma border. The Kansas Highway Patrol is providing access control to limit non-response vehicles into the area.

Two American Red Cross shelters have been established to support Barber County, in case the are needed. One shelter has been established in Chaparral High School in Harper County and the second shelter has been established in Pratt.

Wind speeds have been sustained from the south at 43 mph and gusts up to 58 or 9 mph. The National Weather Service says winds will switch to the northwest with sustained speeds above 30 mph through midnight.

(KSNW) — Medicine Lodge Memorial Hospital and the jail in Medicine Lodge have been evacuated. Residents are under voluntary evacuation.

“There’s just fires starting up every where,” said Sun City resident Sabina Long. “I mean, everywhere. I wanted to get my pictures water all around the house, lawn. get my pictures. get my animals.”

Meanwhile, Nathan Lee, who lives near Sun City, came to help out.

“We’re just checking on neighbors,” Lee said. “Making sure people don’t need help protecting their homes and protecting their livestock.”

. . .

No injuries have been reported in either state, according to local officials. About a dozen homes have been evacuated in Comanche County, though none of the houses has been damaged, county emergency management coordinator John Lehman said.

Harvey County emergency management officials say several small structures have been lost to the fire, but no injuries have been reported so far.

About 65 firetrucks and hundreds of firefighters were helping to gradually contain the blaze, which occasionally whipped into canyons, Lehman said. Oil field crews have hauled water to the scene in tractor-trailers to help.

One couple was seen bringing water and food to firefighters and emergency crews.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s