LYONS – A complex of three Rice County wildfires continued to rage as of Thursday afternoon while fire crews from around central Kansas were worked to contain them, according to Rice County Emergency Communications.
Ground operations began at 9 a.m. Thursday and Air Operations started again around 10 a.m., and people were asked to stay away from the area as roads are still closed. Roads that were closed were 31 Street/Plum between Avenue Q and Avenue V and Avenue Q between 31st Road/Plum Street and 22nd Road.
According to Kansas Adjutant General’s Department, fire danger remains high with red flag warnings across much of Kansas due to high winds and dry weather conditions.
Currently, the Rice County fire complex is the largest active fire in the state. Black Hawk helicopters and crews from the Kansas Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 108th Aviation, out of Salina and Topeka have been tasked to assist first responders on the ground with fire suppression efforts, said KAGD spokesperson Jane Welch.
Two of the choppers were deployed to assist with the Rice County Fire Complex operations. Five additional Black Hawks are on standby to assist with firefighting operations, as needed.
The State Emergency Operations Center in Topeka remains staffed at a partial activation level to coordinate state firefighting resources, Welch said.
Kansas Division of Emergency Management officials are reminding Kansans to avoid any activity that could create a spark and start a new fire. Do not drive on or stop your car on dry or tall grass because your exhaust can spark a fire; do not throw cigarettes on the ground.
Stay away from all affected areas and do not drive through heavy smoke. Sightseeing puts you in danger and hampers the work of firefighting crews.