|The Kansas Division of Emergency Management continues to coordinate the state’s response to the multiple wildfires that have cropped up across the state due to dry and windy conditions.
The counties of Clark, Comanche, Ellsworth, Hodgeman, Lincoln, Reno, Rooks and Russell continue to battle active fires. Additional damage assessments will be completed when crews can enter restricted areas.
The Federal Air Administration has closed the airspace to all nonemergency air traffic, including drones, in a 10-mile radius encompassing most of Hutchinson and the area north of the city. The airspace was closed to allow Kansas National Guard Black Hawk helicopters to safely conduct water drop operations in support of ground firefighting efforts.
The four Kansas Army National Guard Black Hawks that assisted with firefighting operations today dropped 230 buckets which is approximately 138,000 gallons of water in Reno County.
Fires in Clark County have destroyed more than 351,000 acres of land. On Wednesday, March 8 two U.S. Army Reserve Chinook helicopters from Gardner will partner with two Kansas Army National Guard Black Hawk helicopters out of Salina and two Forest Service fixed-wing aircraft in firefighting operations in Clark County. Chinooks are larger than Black Hawk helicopters and can drop approximately 2,000 gallons of water per run.
Officials estimate approximately 656,420 acres have burned across the state. Estimated totals by county are: Wilson Lake Complex 28,600 acres; Reno County 7,200 acres; Clark County 351,000 acres; Ford Complex 700 acres; Rooks County 5,000 acres; Ness County 3,000 acres; Lane County 57,000 acres; Lincoln 49,920 acres, Ellis County 3,000 acres, and Comanche County 151,000 acres.
The Kansas Division of Emergency Management has deployed their Communications on Wheels vehicles to Reno and Clark Counties to assist with communication with area residents. Reno County has also requested the Geospatial Information System vehicle to provide mapping support for the local incident commander in Hutchinson.
The Kansas Division of Emergency Management is urging anyone wishing to contribute to disaster relief efforts ongoing in Kansas to donate cash to disaster relief organizations rather than donating goods. KDEM recommends Kansans consider donating to reputable disaster relief organizations of their choice or local organizations within the affected communities.
FEMA has approved Federal Fire Management Assistance Grants for fires in Clark, Comanche, Ellsworth, Ford, Lincoln, Ness, Rooks, and Russell Counties. Additional requests may be made as the current emergencies continue.
FMAG grants are available to states, local and tribal governments, for the mitigation, management, and control of fires on publicly or privately owned forests or grasslands, which threaten such destruction as would constitute a major disaster. The program provides a 75 percent federal cost share and the state pays the remaining 25 percent for actual costs.
KDEM has received additional firefighting resources from other states through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact and from the National Forestry Service.
The American Red Cross opened shelters for displaced residents in Coldwater and Dodge City. Current plans call for those shelters to shut down today. The shelter at the Kansas State Fairgrounds, 2000 N Poplar Street, in Hutchinson will remain open until further notice. An additional shelter has been opened at the Ashland High School, 311 J.E. Humphreys Street. The shelter can house up to 75 residents.
A shelter also was opened in Jetmore at the 4-H Building on the Hodgeman County Fairgrounds.
There were multiple road closures and openings due to the fires. Current information is available from the Kansas Department of Transportation by calling 5-1-1 or visiting the Kandrive website at kandrive.org.