Reno County’s sheriff said Wednesday morning that an additional home has been reported as destroyed – bring the total to eight – by a fire that has burned north of Hutchinson for several days.
During a morning news briefing, Randy Henderson also said two firefighters have been injured while battling the blaze, which has burned about 6,300 acres in Reno and Rice counties. One firefighter suffered a back injury during a fall while a second, a member of the Hutchinson Fire Department, was hospitalized after being splashed in the face with muriatic acid while operating a hose.
Officials reported that the fire was about 75 percent contained as of late Wednesday morning. Some areas of the evacuated zone north of Hutchinson remained close, though the K-61 highway was open as of 10 a.m.
“Firefighter crews continued working on hot spots overnight and have identified specific areas for daytime work on Wednesday,” Henderson said.
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Henderson said officials are working to contact families that have had their homes destroyed. Areas from 43rd Avenue to 108th Avenue in Reno County and from Plum Street to the old K-61 highway remained closed as of late Wednesday morning, though Henderson said officials will continue to work to compress the evacuation zone.
Shelley Wilson, who lives on Monroe Street just north of Hutchinson, returned to her home Tuesday night to find no damage, said her daughter, Crystal Gibson.
Residents were also allowed back into their homes Tuesday night in the Highlands area near the Crazy Horse Golf Club north of Hutchinson. Henderson said four Black Hawk helicopters from the Kansas National Guard were expected to again make water drops on Wednesday.
At a Red Cross shelter for those who have been displaced by the fire at the Kansas State Fairgrounds, all was quiet early Wednesday morning. A Red Cross official said three people were still at the shelter as of a headcount that had been conducted at midnight.
Henderson said an animal shelter that has been set up at the fairgrounds was expected to receive some horses, goats and sheep on Wednesday. Farmers and ranchers in the state who have lost livestock during the recent fires are encouraged to contact the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, according to a news release from the agency.
“The fire’s not technically contained because there are spots we can’t get into,” said Doug Hanen, interim Hutchinson fire chief. “It’s still staying in the perimeters that we’ve had, but we have multiple spots to work on, which we’ll continue to do. If the wind changes, though, the fire could take off.”
Multiple fires in the state have burned more than 600,000 acres in Kansas since last week. A red flag fire warning in Reno County continued Wednesday with winds expected to gust to near 35 mph during the afternoon hours.