According to the State Emergency Operations Center in Topeka. They continue to operate at a watch level to monitor the wildfire situation in south central Kansas that began Tuesday evening in Oklahoma and spread into Kansas overnight.
Gov. Sam Brownback declared a State of Disaster Emergency March 23 for areas threatened by the wildfires.
The declaration authorizes state resources to assist communities affected by the fires.
Progress was made on the fire last night near Medicine Lodge and north near the leading edges of the fire.
Local firefighters expect to see fire activity today, but are not expecting it to be like yesterday.
According to officials, there will be hot spots for several days that have a strong potential to reignite areas. Two flares ups occurred this morning. One home was destroyed, and the occupants have relocated to another house. One family is displaced and is staying at a local hotel with American Red Cross support.
The situation in Reno County has de-escalated to the point where agencies involved in the response have been able send some of their staff home. The county emergency manager said he would rate the fire containment at almost 100 percent.
An assessment of damage shows there were only two structures damaged, a home and one unknown structure. All damaged power lines have been restored and fire crews are currently putting out isolated fire spots.
Officials in Comanche County report the fire flared back up around 6 a.m. The county is using county resources and has additional county resources available. Officials estimate approximately 3,500 acres have burned, damaging trees and fences, but there has been no damage to structures.
An overnight perimeter was established in Harvey County.
County officials are working with multiple incident management teams to coordinate command staff.
Three task force groups are covering approximately 30 square miles of land. Containment is estimated to be at 70 percent. The main focus is 15 square miles of the area that is actively burning. Two additional focus areas involve 10-12 residences. One summer cabin has been destroyed.
Westar Energy reports about 130 customers without power in Newton.
There are four company crews and five contract crews working to restore power; power is expected to be nearly fully restored by approximately 5-6 p.m. today. However, power crews are not going to work oil field areas while there is still a fire risk.
American Red Cross and the Salvation Army are providing support as needed.
Anyone needing information about support or wishing to make a donation may call 211 on any telephone.
In recent days with all the wildfires that sparked up in Barton County and around the state, fire safety should be on everyone’s mind. Prevention is the key to help stopping these fires and protecting ones family and home, safety officials said.
The lack of moisture and the windy conditions are the ingredients for wildfires, but with the proper precautions these fires can be prevented from starting and in the case that one does start, these precautions can also help with keeping the fire from spreading.
“Any time we have these dry and windy conditions when nothing is green yet, people need to be very careful and watch any open flame really close and take precautions,” Great Bend Fire Chief Mike Napolitano said.
According to the Kansas Fire Marshal. Each year, wildfires consume hundreds of homes where cities blend into their rural surroundings. Studies show that as many as 80 percent of the homes lost to wildfires could have been saved if their owners had only followed a few simple fire-safe practices.
In addition, wildfire related deaths occur because people wait too late to leave their homes.
Wildfires don’t just happen in rural areas, these fires can happen within city limits as well, Napolitano said. These precautions are for everyone no matter where one lives.
According to the fire marshal, here are seven actions people can take to help prevent fires.
• Weed around property on a regular basis, paying close attention to areas a mower can’t reach or the grass is to tall to cut.
• Remove leafs and other debris that accumulates around buildings, under vegetation and other collection areas.
• Clean out gutters on a regular basis.
• Remove debris, weeds and grass from under propane tanks and create a 10-foot clearance around it.
• Eliminate what is called ladder fuels. These are tall weeds or tree branches that grow over the house. These types of fuels able the fire to climb vertical.
• Remove flammable materials from underneath houses and porches.
• Mow the yard on a regular basis to keep grass shorter than four inches tall around the home.
People can also create a defensible space around their home and other buildings on the property.
According to the Kansas Fire Marshal this space is another way to help protect your home and help prevent fires.
This space is broken up into three zones.
This zone is zero to 30 feet around the home or to the property line.
• Use hard surfaces such as concrete or noncombustible rock mulch zero to five feet around home.
• Use non-woody, low growing herbaceous vegetation. Succulent plants and ground covers are good choices.
• Store firewood and other combustible materials at least 30 feet away from your home, garage or attached deck.
• Trim back touching or over-hanging branches from the roof to a distance of at least 10 feet.
This zone is 30 to 100 feet around the home or to the property line.
• Create vegetation groups, “islands,” to break up continuous fuels around your home.
• Remove ladder fuels (those which allow fire to climb from the surface level into upper portions of trees).
• Remove leaf and needle debris from the yard.
• Keep grass and wildflowers under 8 inches in height.
This zone is 100 to 200 feet around the home or to the property line.
• Create and maintain a minimum of 10 feet between the tops of trees.
• Remove ladder fuels, creating a separation between low-level vegetation and tree branches to keep fire from climbing up trees.
• Remove dead trees and shrubs.
Wildfires in Kansas
Kansas has between 4,500 and 9,000 fires in vegetation a year.
The amount of fires and acres burned in Kansas follows a multi-year cycle. While some years have less fires, they often build into much larger amounts the following year.
The good news is that on average 53 percent of all fires a year burn under one acre. The bad news is that high call volume tires out the members of the Fire Service, adds wear and tear to emergency vehicles, and even the smallest fires threaten structures and lives.
The human Factor
Floating embers love tall, dry grass. This hazard is not just for those who live in the country.
If your city allows backyard burning, take a look at vegetation growing close to the home.
Inappropriate burning practises often lead to fire spread. Easy preparation tips can prevent this problem.
Small controlled burns can quickly get out of control with poor planning and management.
Fires wont stop at the fence line. Your neighbors fires can become your own.
Most fires are completely preventable.
Roughly 3 percent of fires are attributed to fully natural causes such as lightning, high wind knocking lines down and animals.
The largest amount of fires are started by “controlled” or planned fires which either rekindled or spread out of control. These fires could have started out as simple backyard fire pits for entertaining or burning a pile of dead leaves and limbs after cleaning up a yard.
Floating embers can quickly spread to dry, overgrown vegetation and shifting winds can push heat and flames where people never meant for them to go.
Information obtained from the Kansas Fire Marshal.
For more information or to a copy of your own Residential Safety Checklist or a copy of My Personal Wildfire Action Plan visit firemarshal.ks.gov.