HUTCHINSON — Several Osage County agencies and fire departments responded to grass and wildfires in central Kansas last week.
Area units from Osage County Fire District No. 1 Carbondale, Osage County Fire District No. 4 Overbrook and Osage County Fire District No. 5 Lyndon/Vassar each sent units to assist with a grassfires that burned 7,200 acres in Reno County in a populated area north of Hutchinson.
“The Reno County fires, as far as acreage, were not that big,” said Bryce Romine, Osage County emergency management director. “The first fires were located right against Hutchinson. There were a lot of structures – several burned and a lot of them threatened.”
Volunteers directly battled and contained fires in the area as part of rotations for two or three days.
“So many different fires and places we needed to be, we were able to save many structures, but it is still hard to fathom all of the ones we were not able to,” said Brandon Larsen, District 5 firefighter. “It goes to show, in a time of need, any of us can work efficiently as a team to work toward the same end goal, no matter how chaotic the situation is.”
Romine assisted in an organizational capacity, spending five days last week in the area.
“I went down as part of the Kansas All-Hazard Incident Management Team,” Romine said. “I worked resource unit and the accountability section. The resource unit takes care of checking in all the resources, whether it’s people or equipment. We file how many units and personnel we have available.”
The volunteers were part of a statewide response to fires across the state in 13 counties, burning more than 700,000 acres. The response included fire units from across the state, as well as Blackhawk helicopters from the Army National Guard.
“All the ones that went from Osage County worked the Reno County fires,” Romine said. “There’s two areas there, one was a highland fire area. The second was Jupiter Hills.”
The timing reflects a similar call for statewide mutual aid made last year for a fire that burned 400,000 acres in Barber County and parts of Oklahoma. Lyndon and Carbondale fire units responded with equipment and personnel to that fire.
“There’s a statewide mutual aid agreement that all the counties have signed,” Romine said. “We help somebody else, and normally they’ll come and help us when we need help. It’s just that way in the fire service, and a lot of emergency services, too.”
Fire weather conditions have reflected locally in burn bans in Osage County eight days so far this month, with additional fire weather warnings on other days. Romine assumed there would be additional burn bans in the coming weeks.
“The way the weather forecast for the next at least week sounds, yes,” he said.
An executive order was declared last week to assist fire relief efforts throughout the state. The order facilitates the immediate delivery of large quantities of hay, feed, fencing materials, and other relief supplies by waiving certain motor carrier regulations.
The Kansas Livestock Association is working with private donors to provide hay for cattle in counties that suffered extensive loss of grazing lands and baled hay. Anyone wishing to donate to these efforts should contact KLA at http://www.kla.org/donationform.aspx.
The potential for grassfire still exists in many areas of the state due to dry weather conditions. Although there is no statewide burn ban, residents are urged to contact local emergency management or the sheriff’s office to find out if a burn ban exists in their area. The best practice under current conditions is to refrain from burning anything outdoors.