Officials: Wildfires “nearly contained”

Wildfire near Medicine Lodge (Courtesy: KSN's Brittany Glas)

WICHITA, Kansas – The Kansas Adjutant General’s Department released a press statement Monday afternoon reporting that Kansas wildfires have been “nearly contained” and reporting that Kansas National Guard air crews, working with civilian firefighters have made significant progress in battling south central Kansas wildfires over the past two days, according to the Kansas Adjutant General’s Department.

On Saturday, four UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters piloted and crewed by Soldiers with 1st Battalion, 108th Aviation Regiment of the Kansas National Guard arrived to assist in fighting the fires. The Black Hawks crews made 68 drops on Saturday and another 56 on Sunday, totaling approximately 68,000 gallons of water.

As of Monday, Barber County officials reported the fire at 81 percent containment, an improvement from 31 percent containment Sunday, and 15 percent Saturday. Estimates indicate approximately 300,000 acres total burned in Kansas, more than 270,000 acres in Barber County alone.

No injuries or fatalities have been reported as a result of the fires, but 12 homes have been destroyed — nine in Barber County, two in Reno County and one in Harvey County — along with multiple outbuildings. An unknown number of livestock have been lost. Three bridges and one railroad trestle were also damaged or destroyed.

The Adjutant General’s Department noted that damage assessments are just beginning, so totals are expected to change.

Barber, Comanche, Harvey and Reno Counties issued state of local disaster emergency declarations and Gov. Sam Brownback authorized a State of Disaster Emergency declaration March 23 for all four counties. The state requested and was granted a federal Fire Management Assistance Grant for Barber and Comanche Counties.

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