County and area firefighters battled a raging grass fire last Wednesday along U.S. 54. The fire spanned the property of four landowners, burning an estimated 420 acres after igniting in a nearby junkyard.
Kiowa County volunteer firefighters from Haviland, Greensburg and Mullinville responded to a call about the fire at 2:25 p.m. last Wednesday which began at a junkyard located south of U.S. 54 between Greensburg and Mullinville.
Kiowa County Fire Chief Jay Koehn said the fire began at the junkyard due to gunfire.
"Some county residents were taking target practice on tin cans," said Koen.
Fire units from Comanche County, including engines from Coldwater and Wilmore and Bucklin engines from Ford County assisted local firefighters, who battled the blaze for nearly five hours, which was brought under control in the early evening around 7:30 p.m. according to Kohen.
No one was treated for fire-related injuries, according to Kiowa County EMS Director Chad Pore.
There were no homes damaged in the fire, though a pair of 115-volt Sunflower Electric-owned power lines were damaged and needed to be replaced.
The power outage that was reported by some county residents was a result of that damage.
Koehn also said a significant amount of fences were damaged.
At one point the fire caused a shutdown of U.S. 54/400 for almost a half hour as the fire burned grasses right up to the blacktop. Kansas Department of Transportation road construction on the west side of the county contributed to congestion as dust and smoke rolled northward across the highway.
Koehn said the heat, lack of wind and terrain were in play while his all-volunteer fire department attempted to extinguish and contain the blaze.
"It's so hot and it was hard to control the fire. Even though it wasn't windy, it was hard to control and we couldn't stop it — mainly because of the terrain. The Rattle Snake Creek is so steep. If it wasn't for KDOT plowing fire guards it probably would have jumped the highway."
Koehn praised a number of local farmers, KDOT and area fire departments for assisting them. "It was a combined effort from everybody including farmers who brought tractors and water. Blattner energy, who are building the nearby wind towers came and helped. Everybody together did a great job of getting it under control."
The county does not charge at-fault residents for fire calls and the county absorbs 100 percent of costs. Koehn estimated the total expense of fuel, manpower and damages in excess of $20,000. He said area fire departments do not pass along their costs for assisting on fire calls to the county.
"I think they did really good because everybody was at work at that time of day," said Koehn when asked about his evaluation of local firefighters. "The response time and the amount of people [who responded] in that short of time was really good."
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