By Jim Misunas
LARNED — A potentially dangerous fire situation south of Larned was quickly brought under control by Pawnee County firefighters Tuesday afternoon.
Mark Wagner, Pawnee County emergency management director, said fire crews from Larned, Garfield and the Larned State Hospital responded to the fire called in by a motorist at 1:15 p.m. Tuesday south of Larned off K-19. Ten fire vehicles and more than 30 firefighters responded to the fire. Fire trucks replenished their water supplies at the Larned municipal water plant on the south edge of town.
Wagner said a tarp protecting milo at a grain storage area just south of Larned apparently blew into the air and snapped power lines crossing K-19, triggering a fire and a power outage in Larned and south of town. Southbound traffic on K-19 was blocked by Pawnee County deputies and KDOT personnel.
Power was restored in Larned by 2:30 p.m., but it was unknown how long power would be disrupted in rural areas south of town. Wagner said the fire burned prairie grass and trees east for a couple hundred yards and west for a 1/4 mile off K-19.
EMS personnel, Pawnee County sheriff deputies, Kansas Department of Transportation employees and Midwest Energy personnel responded in 100-degree heat. Larned pilot Steve Gross of Gross Flying Service dropped water from his plane.
“Everyone wants to help. We’re always impressed with the quick response of firefighters and emergency personnel,” Wagner said. “The 100-degree heat makes it difficult to work for long periods. The firefighters will generally take a break when they are getting overheated. The terrain makes it difficult to get to certain areas.”
Pawnee County’s fire command trailer provided air conditioning, water and ice on the scene for personnel helping with the fire.
Wagner said firefighters were expected to be on the scene checking for hot spots for several more hours Tuesday afternoon. Wagner said fire conditions were high because of the 100-degree heat and dry conditions. Pawnee County is currently under a county-wide burn ban.