High winds, warm weather fuel large grass fires in Reno, Saline counties

Published: Mar. 29, 2021 at 4:51 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

(KWCH) - Update Monday night, March 29, 2021: Reno County is under a state of emergency after crews spent all day into the night working to control grassfires in the area that has burned more than 600 acres. Earlier Monday evening, fire officials said there were no injures nor damage to property as crews fought to put out the flames. Hours later, the perimeter remains to keep people out of the area impacted by the fast-spreading fire.

Video from earlier in the day at 30th and Buhler Road showed multiple agencies making their way through a checkpoint. Even cement trucks were used to carry in extra water. The was was the largest component of the fire. Eyewitness News was told the fire moved more than three miles in a matter of hours. The good news Monday night is that there is still no report of structural damage nor injuries. The Reno County Sheriff’s Office said evacuations in the area were voluntary. As of Monday night, the fire wasn’t spreading near so rapidly as it was earlier in the day, but there were concerns with it picking up again with a change in wind direction expected about midnight.

“We are expecting a wind shift from about midnight to 2 a.m. where it will turn the wind around to the west and back to the north, which will test our containment lines,” Hutchinson Fire Division Chief of Fire Operations Dough Hanen said Monday night. “At this point, the fire is not moving anywhere, but it is certainly not out. I would be hesitant to give it any kind of containment in this area or this time.”

Reno County Sheriff Darrian Campbell said the county is looking at an extensive cleanup from what burned Monday.

“We are looking at four days to seven cleanup,” he said. “In a lot of those wooded areas, there are cottonwoods. And of course, those are hollow, so they have to be torn down and destroyed to make sure the fire gets out.”

With crews putting out fires across the county, Campbell said support from surrounding counties and the local community has been a big help, especially as the threat for more grassfires continues through the week.

“Right now we are trying to get a handle on the resources and make sure we have enough resources to sustain operations for multiple days,” Campbell said.

There was also a large grassfire in Saline County Monday just outside of Brookville, about 20 miles west of Salina The good news is that crews managed to contain the fire and opened up K-140 in both directions. As is the situation in Reno County, however there are concerns about a possible wind shift overnight.

K-140 was temporarily closed in both directions in Saline County due to a large grassfire near...
K-140 was temporarily closed in both directions in Saline County due to a large grassfire near Brookville.(KWCH 12)

“We will be monitoring the situation. They are still actively fighting parts of the fire at this point,” said Saline County Deputy Director of Emergency Management Bernie Botson. “Although several of the units have been sent home at this point, but that might change. This is an ongoing, fluid situation.”

Crews in Saline County were expecting to remain on scene overnight to monitor for hotspots. While there were not reports of injuries, crews are concerned about some calves in the area.

Update: Reno County Sheriff Darrian Campbell said Tuesday it’s hard to know if a large wildfire has been contained.

The fire started Monday afternoon at 4th and Buhler and grew by the time crews arrived.

Wind gusts up to 60 miles per hour fueled the fire causing it to travel at a high rate of speed, three miles to 43rd, burning 600 acres. No one was hurt in the fire and there was no property damage, but a voluntary evacuation was ordered.

Crews opened have reopened Fourth Street, but drivers are still asked to avoid 30th and Wilson, 30th and Kent and 30th and Buhler.

The Reno County Commission declared a local state of emergency as this is the second major fire to break out in the county in two days.

Campbell said crews have a better vantage than with the Highland Fire of 2017.

He said at this time, there is no way to tell if it is contained because of the direction the fire is moving, which could switch overnight as a cold front moves in. Crews will remain on the scene for the rest of the week as conditions aren’t expected to improve much.

Fire departments from Harvey, McPherson, Rice, Reno and Sedgwick counties are responded to the fire. Law enforcement officers from 3 to 4 local agencies to are helping maintain a perimeter for the area.

Firefighters across Kansas are out battling grass fires as high winds, gusting upwards of 60 miles per hour, and warm weather fuel the flames.

In Reno County, fire officials closed Fourth Avenue due to a “wind-whipped grass fire” east of Hutchinson. Units from three counties responded to the fire, which is centered around 17th and Willison Road, west of Haven Road. Other road closures include 30th from Kent Road to Buhler Road and Willison from 4th to 30th.

No structures are threatened or in danger, but officials are telling people to stay away from the area so crews and try and gain control of the situation.

The Kansas Forest Service sent Air Tanker 95 to assist with wildfire in Reno County. T95 is contracted under the Kansas Forest Service to supplement resources when requested by local authorities.

Due to the large fire east of Hutchinson, the Buhler School District did not run more than a dozen buses. Students were held at schools for parents to pick them up.

Butler County dispatchers said they were working one fire that started around 2 p.m. at SW 120th and SW Tawonakie. Two departments were on the scene to fight that blaze.

Smoke plumes from the fires in Reno County, Saline County and on the Lyon/Wabaunsee county line were also captured by the GOES Satellite.

Copyright 2021 KWCH. All rights reserved.