PHOTOS, VIDEO: Firefighters keep large fire in Highlands area from significantly damaging homes

By Ashley Booker
Hutchinson News – March 6, 2017


Photos, Videos, Updates

Firefighters kept a large grass fire north of Hutchinson in the Highlands subdivision from significantly damaging any homes in its path over the weekend.

Reno County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Steve Lutz said at about 4:20 p.m. that no homes were lost and the damage to less than 10 homes was only minor. He knew of damage to fences, trees and yards.

The fire, which still was blazing Sunday evening, came close enough to one home that it caused the siding to melt. Fire also damaged at least one propane tank. It vented off from the top and didn’t explode.

The affected area, according to the Hutchinson Police Department, is around 82nd to 108th avenues, and Monroe to Hendricks streets.

Fire crews put out a brush fire near 82nd Avenue and Hendricks Street Sunday morning. At about 1:30 p.m., it rekindled due to strong winds and dry conditions, Lutz said, but this time it was closer to residences and the golf course, prompting the evacuation of about 200 to 300 residents.

Local law enforcement even went onto the golf course to get golfers to leave the unsafe area.

Nearly 2,000 acres were thought to have burned in the Highlands in Reno and Rice counties, according to a RNSO release.

By 4:20 p.m., all evacuated residents and animals were safe – including a few large tortoises.

Reno County Sheriff Randy Henderson said residents were able to return to their homes starting at 9 p.m. Sunday. Residents were being asked to stay in their homes, driveways or yards.

They were asked to call 911 only if an active flame was threatening a structure. All other fires were requested to be put out by a garden hose.

Around 5 p.m. areas west of the Highlands still were on fire, and locations to the south were rekindling.

“Currently we are asking all public to avoid this area so as not to impede the fire units in their duties,” Lutz wrote in a release.

A separate fire northeast of Hutch

Interim Hutchinson Fire Department Chief Doug Hanen said in a release that fire crews were working numerous hot spots to keep a fire northeast of Hutchinson, which is now being called the Jupiter Hills fire, under control.

About 45 firefighters at 11:30 a.m. were working an area east of Old K-61, south of 69th Avenue, west of Mayfield Road and north of 43rd Avenue, according to a Kansas Incident Management Team release.

Reno County has declared a state of emergency. State resources are being brought in to fight the blaze, which was believed to be 80 percent contained late Sunday morning after starting Saturday afternoon. So far, an estimated 1,200 acres have burned.

When first responding units began arriving after 2:21 p.m. Saturday, the fire was crossing 56th Avenue, which was a mile north of the original location at 43rd Avenue and Jupiter Hills Drive.

Firefighters were able to stop most of the fire’s extension at 69th Avenue – except for a few spots north of the area that crews got under control.

“All roads, except 69th Avenue, from Old K-61 to Mayfield, and 56th Avenue from Old K-61 to the dead end, have been opened,” according to an HFD release. “There are no evacuations being implemented at this time.”

The fire has damaged three outbuildings. Two are sheds. One was a total loss and the other has significant damage.

Hanen is asking people to stay out of the area for both their safety and the safety of crews on the scene.

Firefighters are expected to work the fire over the next few days, as the weather forecast called for winds between 25 and 28 mph Sunday evening, with gusts up to 34 mph, and continuing south today from 23 to 31 mph, becoming west in the afternoon, with gusts as high as 41 mph.

Meteorologists with the National Weather Service also expect the west wind to die down Tuesday to 8 to 18 mph, but with gusts as high as 31 mph.

Thirty-seven units and roughly 90 personnel were on the scene at the height of the fire.

Fire crews from all over Reno, McPherson, Harvey, Sedgwick, Ellsworth and Barton counties, and the Kansas Fire Service, have responded.

Law enforcement from the Reno County Sheriff’s Office, Hutchinson Police Department, Buhler Police Department, South Hutchinson Police Department and the Kansas Highway Patrol helped with traffic control.

Hutchinson Central Garage, Hutchinson Flood Control, LifeTeam, Westar Energy, Union Pacific Railroad, Kansas Wildlife and Parks, USD 313 and Reno County Emergency Management all assisted through the large, dangerous fire.

“Last, but definitely not least, is our awesome Dispatch Center that kept up with all our requests throughout the incident,” Hanen wrote.

Lending a helping hand

The American Red Cross handed out food and water to firefighters on Sunday, Lutz said.

Several organizations, including the Nickerson Clovers 4-H Club, donated care packages to first responders that afternoon.

Dispatch traffic also indicated residents were offering to deliver large water tanks to firefighters if they needed it. Others grabbed trucks with water tanks to help hose the fire down.


Posted by Gwen Dorr Romine, KSFFA Webmaster
KSFFA’s Fire News Blog Home Page

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