Wildfires Plague Kansas Again

Wildfires this week darkened thousands of acres in Oklahoma and Kansas but the biggest loss was in Kansas where at least 25,000 acres burned.

A wildfire in Ellis county in northern Kansas prompted the evacuation of the small town of Catharine near Hays. Highway patrol troopers went from farm to farm, urging people to flee.

Nearly 100 firefighters from Ellis, Rooks, Russell and Trego counties fought the quickly-moving fire.

The firefighters were helped with 4 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and 16 soldiers from the Kansas National guard. A spokeswoman for the Kansas Adjutant General, Katie Horner said two dumped water on the fires while two others were on standby if needed.

Smoke from the fire forced troopers to shut down Interstate 70 and reroute traffic to Highway 40 on the south end of Hays.

An estimated 50 wildfires were reported in Kansas on Tuesday and Wednesday and 21 were extinguished, 10 were in final clean-up and 16 were contained. Fires were swept by strong winds that on Tuesday reached 70 miles an hour near Scott City and 60 miles an hour in parts of northern and central Kansas.

Earlier in the week, a large wildfire burned an estimated 2,000 acres near the Clark County town of Ashland, site of the massive Starbuck wildfire that burned 460,000 acres a year ago. The Starbuck fire was the one that started in northern Oklahoma and swept northward, devastating some ranches and killing thousands of head of cattle. The number of acres burned in both states came to 662,000 acres.

This week’s fire near Ashland began when a truck caught fire west of the town and ignited a shelterbelt. Winds of nearly 35 miles an hour pushed the fire south of Ashland.