Fire investigators still looking into cause of grass fires

WICHITA, Kansas – Several fire crews spent Thursday evening battling several grass fires in Wichita and surrounding areas.

Several of the fires popped up in the area of K-96 and forced officials to close the exit onto Hydraulic St.

Captain Stuart Bevis with the Wichita Fire Department says the unusually busy day left resources from multiple departments stretched thin.

“This was an extremely taxing event for the fire department, a lot of resources expended trying to track all these down,” said Bevis.

The Wichita Fire Department called nearly 60 employees back into work to aid in getting the fires under control Thursday evening.

With fires widespread, fire officials say they were down to three or four available units, with the rest actively battling the fires.

Deputy Fire Chief Craig Leu with Sedgwick County Fire District 1 says they also had to call in more reinforcements.

“We ended up calling back 11 employees to staff 5 vehicles,” said Leu.

Leu says the added manpower came at a price.

He estimates that the overtime will total between $1,100 to $1,400.

Leu says they don’t budget for the overtime, but will be able to cover the costs.

The Wichita Fire Department is still calculating how much the overtime will end up costing them.  They expect to have those figures sometime next week.

With the dry and windy conditions, both departments say they won’t issue any burn bans at this time.

Leu says his department will instead prepare in case another string of fires ignite.

“Anytime we have a lot of brown grass out there which is what we have, we’re keeping an eye on the weather conditions, the weather conditions drive how we respond and react,” said Leu.

Investigators are still looking into the cause, saying chains dragging behind a vehicle may have sparked the blaze.

Fire officials are also warning drivers to not throw cigarettes out due to the current weather conditions.

 

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