Firefighters across the state had their hands full as grass fires fueled by high winds broke out in 21 Kansas counties late Monday and continued burning into Tuesday.
According to the Kansas Adjutant General Department’s website, there were active fires in Clark, Cheyenne, Comanche, Ellsworth, Finney, Ford, Hodgeman, Lane, Meade, Ness, Pratt, Pottawatomie, Rawlins, Reno, Rice, Rooks, Russell, Seward, Shawnee, Smith and Stevens Counties.
As of Tuesday morning, more than 351,000 acres of land had been destroyed by Clark County fires, resulting in the evacuation of Englewood and Ashland and reportedly damaged approximately 30 structures and bridges. That fire started in Oklahoma and high winds spread it across the state line.
Seven homes were destroyed in Ford County and two homes were destroyed in Rooks County, where over 10,000 acres had burned as of Tuesday morning.
According to Wildfire Today, 53,000 acres had burned 17 miles southeast of Meade and spread into Oklahoma, and 7,000 acres had burned in Lane County, 10 miles southeast of Dighton.
Approximately 10,000 to 12,000 residents of Hutchinson were voluntarily evacuated due to fire risk. The cities of Wilson and Dorrance also did voluntary evacuations.
A fire in Logan County in the northeast corner of Colorado burned 6,000 acres 20 miles northeast of Sterling as of Tuesday.
According to the Kansas Adjutant General Department, the American Red Cross opened shelters for displaced residents in Coldwater and Dodge City.
A shelter also was opened in Jetmore at the 4-H Building on the Hodgeman County Fairgrounds.
Brownback asked Kansans to avoid outside burning until the wildfires could be contained or put out, saying with high wind conditions, embers can carry a long way.
“This is just too dynamic of a situation that we’re in now,” Brownback said.
A spokesperson at the press conference said 98 percent of the state was under a red flag warning through Wednesday.