Update: Officials Say Reno County Wildfire Contained

Mar 9, 2017

Updated Friday at 7:51 p.m.

The Reno County Sheriff's Office said Friday evening that the wildfire that had burned since last weekend is now contained. 

In a Facebook post, the office said the Highland fire burned a total of 5,441 acres. Two injuries were reported. Open burning is still restricted per a disaster declaration.

All evacuation areas were lifted Thursday after the fire was 95 percent contained. 

At a news conference Thursday morning, interim Hutchinson Fire Chief Doug Hanen said crews "did well" overnight.

"We made some progress, that's for sure," Hanen said.

Reno County Sheriff Randy Henderson added an additional home to the list of losses, bringing the total number to 10. There have been at least 11 reports of other outbuildings, vehicles and farm implements having been destroyed by the fire. Residents waiting for updates on potential property damage are asked call 844-834-3659 and a representative of the sheriff's office will call back.

Henderson said there had been no fatalities and no additional injuries as of Thursday morning.

Electrical companies and local tree services are in the area working to clear downed power lines and tree limbs before residents are allowed to make re-entry.

"We have been told by all of the power companies that there will be power lines on the ground. They are all supposed to be dead," Henderson said. "But please, do not go around them."

Domesticated animals have been moved to the Hutchinson Community Animal Shelter and the animals' owners have been notified. The Red Cross shelter will be on standby until the evacuation is lifted.

Henderson said all of the helicopters that were used to fight the blaze have been moved to fight fires in western Kansas.

The Kansas Division of Emergency management decreased its estimate of the total number of acres burned across the state to approximately 632,000, though officials say that figure may rise if new fires flare up. 

Clark and Comanche counties account for approximately 502,000 acres of the affected areas, setting the record for the most widespread single fire in Kansas history; the previous record was set last year when the Anderson Creek fire burned 312,427 acres in Barber and Comanche counties.

KDEM officials caution Kansans that fire danger still exists in part of Kansas due to low humidity and a low dew point.

Airspace remains restricted in a 16-mile radius over Ashland in Clark County to allow Kansas National Guard, Army Reserve, and U.S. Forestry Service air crews to safely conduct water drop operations. Two Kansas National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters with collapsible 660-gallon water buckets and one Army Reserve CH-47 Chinook, capable of dropping 2,000 gallons of water per run, conducted aerial fire suppression operations in Clark County Wednesday. Two fixed-wing aircraft from the U.S. Forestry Service also flew water drop missions in the county. Two additional Army Reserve Chinook helicopters arrived at Dodge City last night and will begin operations this morning.

The Kansas Highway Patrol is providing aerial reconnaissance support to survey burned areas.

KDEM said Thursday morning that the fires killed an unknown number of livestock in several counties. Officials estimate numbers to be in the thousands.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment Bureau of Waste Management is providing guidance to livestock owners for the disposal of dead animals. For information, vist the KDHE website or call Ken Powell at (785) 296-1121.

The Kansas Livestock Association is working with private donors to provide hay for cattle in counties that suffered extensive loss of grazing lands and baled hay.

KDEM advises anyone wishing to contribute to ongoing disaster relief efforts to donate cash to disaster relief organizations rather than donating goods. Officials recommend Kansans donate to reputable disaster relief organizations of their choice or local organizations within the affected communities.

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