State

Update: Over 650,000 acres burned so far, state says

Fire jumps a road in Comanche County near the Kiowa County line. The fire was racing east driven by winds of nearly 30 mph. (March 7, 2017)
Fire jumps a road in Comanche County near the Kiowa County line. The fire was racing east driven by winds of nearly 30 mph. (March 7, 2017) The Wichita Eagle

Wind-fed fires have burned more than 650,000 acres in Kansas, and active fires remain in five counties, according to the latest update Wednesday from the State Emergency Operation Center.

According to the center in Topeka, the counties with active fires on Wednesday and the number of acres burned so far are:

▪ Clark, 351,000

▪ Comanche, 151,000

▪ Ellis, unknown

▪ Reno, 7,200

▪ Rooks, 5,000

It’s too early to begin to estimate the amount of damage. But it already includes dozens of homes and thousands of cattle, so the tally will be considerable, said Katie Horner, spokeswoman for the Kansas Division of Emergency Management.

It takes a crew of six an hour to replace a single electrical pole and they have to replace hundreds across sometimes uneven terrain in order to get the power grid in southwestern Kansas working again. (Oliver Morrison/The Wichita Eagle/March 8, 2

Above-normal temperatures and winds gusting to 40 mph will create “widespread critical fire weather” for central and east Kansas on Wednesday, the Kansas Forest Service says in an online forecast.

For southwest Kansas, “lighter southeast winds” are expected, the service said.

A small part of northwest Kansas also will see winds making “elevated fire weather” possible, the service said.

An increase in humidity and moisture is expected beginning Thursday.

On Tuesday, state emergency management officials said active fires were reported in these counties: Clark, Cheyenne, Comanche, Ellsworth, Finney, Ford, Hodgeman, Lane, Meade, Ness, Pratt, Pottawatomie, Rawlins, Reno, Rice, Rooks, Russell, Seward, Shawnee, Smith and Stevens.

Drone footage shows burned fields and a burned out barn and garage near Ashland, Kansas. After the fires swept through, winds started stripping away the topsoil, creating dust storms. (Courtesy video)

A few miles west of Protection, Kansas a bridge burns. (Oliver Morrison/The Wichita Eagle)

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