Kansas Army National Guard deploys to fight fires in central Kansas
By Catherine Horner, Kansas National Guard Public Affairs, and special to the 1st Inf. Div. Post March 16, 2017
FORT RILEY, Kan. -- As wildfires burn in multiple counties across the state, the State Emergency Operations Center continues to monitor and coordinate assistance for the affected counties.
There were active fires reported in Clark, Cheyenne, Comanche, Ellsworth, Finney, Ford, Hodgeman, Lane, Meade, Ness, Pratt, Pottawatomie, Rawlins, Reno, Rice, Rooks, Russell, Seward, Shawnee, Smith and Stevens Counties. Although some fires have been mostly contained, fire crews continue to monitor the burned areas for flare-ups.
Approximately 10 to 12,000 residents of Hutchinson, Kansas, were voluntarily evacuated due to fire risk. Voluntary evacuations also took place in Wilson and Dorrance. Wilson evacuated approximately 300 individuals and Dorrance approximately 100 individuals.
Severe thunderstorms and tornadoes affected portions of the state during the evening hours of Tuesday, March 6. Crawford County reported wind damage to one residence and minor damage to local businesses. Two tornadoes reportedly touched down in Wabaunsee County and one in Shawnee County.
Federal Emergency Management Agency has approved Federal Fire Management Assistance Grants for Clark, Comanche, Ellsworth, Ford, Lincoln, Ness, Rooks and Russell Counties. Additional requests may be made as the current emergencies continue.
Kansas Division of Emergency Management is seeking additional firefighting resources from other states through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact and from the National Forestry Service. A Type II Incident Management Team has also been requested.
March 6 the Kansas Army National Guard deployed four Black Hawk helicopters from Company B, 1st Battalion, 108th Aviation Regiment out of Salina equipped with 660-gallon buckets. The helicopters dropped more than 33,600 gallons of water on the fire in Reno County.
Four helicopters equipped with buckets will launch at daylight March 7, to continue to assist affected counties with fire suppression. Two helicopters and crews are based out of Topeka and two are out of Salina.
The American Red Cross opened shelters for displaced residents in Coldwater, Dodge City, Hutchinson and Jetmore. The shelter in Coldwater is located at the Coldwater High School, 600 Leavenworth Ave., and currently houses 75 residents.
The shelter in Dodge City is located at the Dodge City Community College Student Activity Building, 2501 N 14th Avenue and currently houses 7 residents. The Hutchinson shelter is located at the state fairgrounds at 2000 N Poplar Street. The shelter can house 1,700 people but currently holds 210 residents. The shelter in Jetmore is located at the 4-H Building on the Hodgeman County Fairgrounds.
There are multiple road closures due to the fires. Information on the latest road closures are available from the Kansas Department of Transportation by calling 5-1-1 or visiting the Kandrive website at kandrive.org.
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