Fires remain a concern across Kansas after strong wind storm

Fires that erupted across Kansas continued to burn Thursday as the state responded to a wind-whipped storm that also churned up dust and reduced visibility for drivers, causing three fatalities. Fires in 11 counties from Russell County west burned just under 400,000 acres, with about 365,850 acres in a fire that stretched across Ellis, Russell, Osborne and Rooks counties, said Shawna Hartman, spokeswoman for the Kansas Forest Service. Smaller fires were also burning in those counties and other areas. The storm system on Wednesday carried winds that reached up to 90 mph in some areas. The winds combined with low humidity and dry vegetation and grasses to fuel fires in parts of western and central Kansas. The dust reduced visibility on roads across the state, causing three fatalities, 20 injury accidents and 51 non-injury accidents, the Kansas Highway Patrol said. Numerous homes, outbuildings and other structures were destroyed but no fatalities were reported by Thursday afternoon. The fires also killed an unknown number of cattle and horses, officials said. Most of the state was under an enhanced, significant or critical fire outlook, state officials said. Russell County Administrator John Fletcher said the fires burned between 200 and 250 square miles in the county and caused millions of dollars in damage, KAKE-TV reported. Between between seven and 10 houses and structures were destroyed. Kathleen Fabrizius, emergency management director in Trego County, said many fires were still smoldering Thursday in big trees, hay bales and power poles. She knew of four homes destroyed, along with numerous outbuildings, equipment and old homesteads. She said some of the fires were in remote areas that were up to 10 miles apart. “We can’t get to them because of the distance and because, frankly, we don’t have the resources to get there,” she said. Kansas deployed helicopters and other firefighting equipment from the Kansas Army National Guard and the Kansas Forest Service to western and central counties to help with fire suppression efforts. Gov. Laura Kelly declared a state of emergency because of the elevated danger of wildfires Thursday and Friday. The Guard’s UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters are equipped with buckets that can drop water on areas that are difficult for ground crews to reach, the Adjutant General’s office said in a news release. The Kansas Forest Service will have single engine air tankers and ground resources on standby. Hartman said it will take several days to completely extinguish all the fires. Evergy officials said the storm caused about 258,000 power outages in Kansas and Missouri. By 3 p.m. Thursday, power had been restored to all but about 31,000 customers. Crews from other utility companies were being brought in to help but it could take days because of the amount of downed power poles and trees, the company said in a news release. The three fatalities in two separate accidents in southwest Kansas were “definitely” caused by low visibility from blowing dust, trooper Mike Racy said Thursday. Two people died in Grant County after multiple vehicles collided. Racy said investigators were trying to determine what happened. In Haskell County, the driver of a semi-trailer truck rear-ended a vehicle that he could not see after it stopped on U.S. 83, the patrol said. The vehicle’s driver, Rocio Marieno-Sanz, 47, of Mexico, was killed. Her passenger Jose Quinonez, 55, of Mexico, was hospitalized with serious injuries. The truck driver was not injured. Previous articleNBA, players agree to additional protocols through holidays

Fires remain a concern across Kansas after strong wind storm

Fires that erupted across Kansas continued to burn Thursday as the state responded to a wind-whipped storm that also churned up dust and reduced visibility for drivers, causing three fatalities.

Fires in 11 counties from Russell County west burned just under 400,000 acres, with about 365,850 acres in a fire that stretched across Ellis, Russell, Osborne and Rooks counties, said Shawna Hartman, spokeswoman for the Kansas Forest Service. Smaller fires were also burning in those counties and other areas.

The storm system on Wednesday carried winds that reached up to 90 mph in some areas. The winds combined with low humidity and dry vegetation and grasses to fuel fires in parts of western and central Kansas.

The dust reduced visibility on roads across the state, causing three fatalities, 20 injury accidents and 51 non-injury accidents, the Kansas Highway Patrol said.

Numerous homes, outbuildings and other structures were destroyed but no fatalities were reported by Thursday afternoon. The fires also killed an unknown number of cattle and horses, officials said.

Most of the state was under an enhanced, significant or critical fire outlook, state officials said.

Russell County Administrator John Fletcher said the fires burned between 200 and 250 square miles in the county and caused millions of dollars in damage, KAKE-TV reported. Between between seven and 10 houses and structures were destroyed.

Kathleen Fabrizius, emergency management director in Trego County, said many fires were still smoldering Thursday in big trees, hay bales and power poles. She knew of four homes destroyed, along with numerous outbuildings, equipment and old homesteads.

She said some of the fires were in remote areas that were up to 10 miles apart.

“We can’t get to them because of the distance and because, frankly, we don’t have the resources to get there,” she said.

Kansas deployed helicopters and other firefighting equipment from the Kansas Army National Guard and the Kansas Forest Service to western and central counties to help with fire suppression efforts.

Gov. Laura Kelly declared a state of emergency because of the elevated danger of wildfires Thursday and Friday.

The Guard’s UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters are equipped with buckets that can drop water on areas that are difficult for ground crews to reach, the Adjutant General’s office said in a news release. The Kansas Forest Service will have single engine air tankers and ground resources on standby.

Hartman said it will take several days to completely extinguish all the fires.

Evergy officials said the storm caused about 258,000 power outages in Kansas and Missouri. By 3 p.m. Thursday, power had been restored to all but about 31,000 customers. Crews from other utility companies were being brought in to help but it could take days because of the amount of downed power poles and trees, the company said in a news release.

The three fatalities in two separate accidents in southwest Kansas were “definitely” caused by low visibility from blowing dust, trooper Mike Racy said Thursday.

Two people died in Grant County after multiple vehicles collided. Racy said investigators were trying to determine what happened.

In Haskell County, the driver of a semi-trailer truck rear-ended a vehicle that he could not see after it stopped on U.S. 83, the patrol said. The vehicle’s driver, Rocio Marieno-Sanz, 47, of Mexico, was killed. Her passenger Jose Quinonez, 55, of Mexico, was hospitalized with serious injuries. The truck driver was not injured.

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