The Kansas Division of Emergency Management has partially activated the State Emergency Operations Center in Topeka to assist three Kansas counties with firefighting efforts for several grassfires that began March 4.
Governor Sam Brownback declared a state of disaster emergency March 5 for Reno, Rice and McPherson counties to expedite state assistance. KDEM has requested the Kansas National Guard to support the Kansas Forestry Service. Two Black Hawk helicopters equipped with 660-gallon Bambi buckets and 10 soldiers are working out of the Hutchinson airport, scooping water from a pond on private land to drop on the fires. Two additional Black Hawks are on stand-by.
An Incident Management Team is supporting the local incident commander.
Multiple grassfires affected Reno County beginning on March 4. Two fires were 100 percent contained, but later rekindled. The Jupiter Hills and Highlands Area Community fires spread into McPherson and Rice Counties, burning approximately 6,000 acres. As of 10:30 a.m. today, the fires in Reno and Rice Counties are 80 percent contained and McPherson County is 90 percent contained.
About 300 residents of the Highlands Area Community, approximately four miles north of Hutchinson, were evacuated, but have since been allowed to return to their homes.
Local fire departments and mutual aid are assisting with fire suppression.
Area residents are encouraged to monitor their local news and weather stations for information about potential wind shifts and other weather changes.