Black Hawk helicopters help battle grass fires in Reno and Rice counties

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (KSNW) – Authorities in Reno County continue to battle several grass fires. Right now, Black Hawk helicopters are doing water drops on the fire areas.

So far, the Jupiter Hills fire consumed around 1200 acres and is now 85 percent contained. The Highlands fire consumed around 2700 acres in Reno and Rice counties.

Two helicopters equipped with 660-gallon Bambi buckets and 10 soldiers are working out of the Hutchinson airport, scooping water from a pond on private land to drop on the fires. Two helicopters are on standby.

“The helicopters were requested due to the difficult terrain, safety of firefighters, and to speed up the ability to put water of the fires,” said Reno County Sheriff Randy Henderson. “A warning was also issued if any drones or people in the air drop are seen, the air drops would be stopped immediately.”

On Sunday, strong winds and dry conditions caused the fires to spread quickly. The fire moved into the Highlands area and continued into Rice County. The golf course and homes in the area were evacuated for their safety. Those residents were relocated to a Red Cross Center, and they were allowed back into their homes Sunday night. Residents in the Highland area are asked to stay in their yards, driveways, and homes.

Officials with the Reno County Sheriff’s Department said one home was damaged in the Highlands area, and that a family was displaced. Several others in that area received minor damage. In the Jupiter Hills fire, there were three outbuildings destroyed.

On Monday, Governor Sam Brownback signed a state of disaster emergency declaration for Reno, Rice and McPherson counties to expedite state assistance.

Extreme fire weather conditions will continue Monday. Fire officials are urging all to be extremely careful.

“Residents will continue to see smoke and fire crews working in the area throughout the day. Please stay out of the areas,” said Sheriff Henderson.

 

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