Weather

Wildfires plaguing Kansas, but will Friday offer relief?

Wildfires on Thursday were just the latest to plague Kansas this spring. Numerous fires have occurred, including this one last week in Kiowa County.
Wildfires on Thursday were just the latest to plague Kansas this spring. Numerous fires have occurred, including this one last week in Kiowa County. The Wichita Eagle

Dozens of wildfires burned thousands of acres across Kansas on Thursday, as strong winds and dry conditions continued to make the Sunflower State a massive tinder box.

The threat for more fires will only increase on Friday, weather officials say, with 'catastrophic' conditions in place thanks to temperatures in the 70s and winds that will top 40 miles an hour at times.

The National Weather Service has issued a red flag warning from Friday morning in through the evening in parts of eastern Kansas and all afternoon and early evening in all of southeast Kansas. A total of 36 counties are in the warning zone, including the Wichita metropolitan area.

State officials tracked 45 fires across the state on Thursday alone, with several of them breaking out in the Kansas City area. The fires burned an estimated 13,000 acres, and many remained active or out of control.

As of early Thursday evening, there were four fires burning out of control in the state and 12 others that were active but under control, according to the Kansas Adjutant General's Office.

Three Kansas Army National Guard Black Hawk helicopters were deployed to assist with two fires north of the Northern Natural Gas plant in Kiowa County in southcentral Kansas. Five other helicopters are on standby.

A Kansas Highway Patrol trooper was sent to the area to work traffic control as a result of smoke.

Two buildings in Kiowa County were destroyed by fire, state officials said. People are urged to avoid any activity that might create a spark, including parking idling vehicles on grass.

The only part of Kansas that is not suffering from drought or at least abnormal dryness is a snippet in the northwest corner of the state, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor report released Thursday.

Nearly 20 percent of the state is enduring either exceptional or extreme drought, stretching along and south of the Arkansas River from just west of Wichita to the Colorado line.

The fire threat should ease Saturday, forecasters say, with temperatures and winds both dropping. Much of the state could see welcome rain on Sunday and perhaps Monday.

A fast-moving wildfire north of Harper kept firefighters busy on Tuesday afternoon. The fire was just one of several that erupted across the state, fed by high winds and drought conditions.

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