Firefighters continue battling blazes

By Kaley Conner
Hays Daily News – March 8, 2017

Photo by Nick Schwien

More high wind gusts contributed to another dangerous day for northwest Kansas, with multiple wildfires reported in and around Russell and Ellis counties.

Fire crews worked overnight Tuesday fighting a significant wildfire that started in northeast Ellis County near Codell Road and stretched to just south of Fairport, an unincorporated community in northwest Russell County, according to Ellis County Fire Chief and Emergency Manager Darin Myers.

After a long night of work, fire crews were called out again early this morning due to multiple fire reports in Ellis County.

“We’re just trying to maintain with minimal amount of help available,” Myers said.

Area fire departments are maxed out from the high demand for services, but some Russell County crews are heading to Ellis County for assistance this morning.

Some area firefighters and emergency officials have been battling blazes almost non-stop since early Monday morning, offering assistance to other counties and fighting fires that later started closer to home.

The fire near the Ellis/Russell county line continued burning as of 6 a.m., but crews made significant progress through the night. The fire burned approximately 8 miles of land, according to information from Myers’ office.

A voluntary evacuation was issued to residents in and near Fairport on Tuesday evening.

Another significant Russell County fire burned through much of Monday night and into Tuesday morning near Lake Wilson.

At least one structure was damaged near Lake Wilson’s Minooka Park, also located in Russell County, according to Keith Haberer, emergency manager for Russell and Ellsworth counties.

Damage estimates are not yet definite, but officials are estimating at least 40,000 acres have burned near the lake.

Haberer was not available for additional updates this morning, as crews continued to be called to the scene of multiple fires.

Units from the Gorham Fire Department also were dispatched to the fires near Lake Wilson and Fairport, and were called to another fire near Gorham earlier Tuesday. A fire started a mile east of Gorham near the Interstate 70 overpass, burning approximately 2 miles long and a half mile wide, said Rob Corley with the Gorham Fire Department.

That fire likely was started by a spark from Interstate 70, though it’s unclear if it was from a vehicle or a cigarette butt, Corley said. An outbuilding was damaged at the south end of the fire.

“Some embers had blown in. It was a metal and wood-frame structure,” he said.

Crews returned from the scene of that fire around 5 p.m., and some were promptly dispatched to the other fire near Fairport.

“It’s just pretty crazy how many fires there were,” Corley said, but was interrupted as fire sirens sounded again in Gorham at approximately 7:45 this morning, once again calling volunteer firefighters to duty.


Posted by Gwen Dorr Romine, KSFFA Webmaster
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