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Grass fire consumes 2,300 acres

Staff writ

A wind-driven and rapidly moving fire that began at 11 a.m. Sunday on the north edge of K-150 just east of Clover Rd. spread nearly 10 miles north and northeast and consumed 2,300 acres of grassland, but firefighters from numerous agencies were able to protect homes and livestock.

“That was a miracle,” Goessel fire chief Matt Voth said.

Marion, Lincolnville, Florence, Durham, Hillsboro, Goessel, Lehigh, Peabody, Ramona, and Lost Springs fire departments were paged out for the fire, as were the Kansas Fire Service, Harvey County Task Force, and Herington and Chase County fire departments.

Chase County firefighters battled flames, evacuated houses, and brought gasoline for fire trucks.

Kansas Forest Service had Ag Service dispatch an airborne tanker that dropped water on the fire four times.

“In 25 years of fighting fires, this fire was in the top five most challenging,” Voth said.

Firefighters battled the blaze for nine hours and then returned less than two hours later for four more hours.

Besides firefighters, it took a lot of support to battle what is being called “the Middle Creek fire.”

Mid-Kansas Cooperative and Cooperative Grain and Supply delivered gasoline and diesel fuel for fire trucks.

Becky Soyez donated gas to a side-by-side that was running on fumes.

Ag Service brought water to refill fire trucks.

Off-duty Marion firefighters brought sandwiches.

A Girl Scout troop donated snacks and drinks.

Tim Donahue and his wife kept the command and staging area supplied with homemade cookies.

Fire for Hire LLC donated pizza.

Emergency managers, firefighters, Marion County emergency medical service, and the sheriff’s office all donated bottled water.

The fire was both fierce and unpredictable.

“Every time we thought we got it out, it would spring to life again,” Voth said. “At one point, we thought we had the west flank out, but then it flared up again. Nobody had left the scene yet.”

As the fire approached a herd of cattle owned by Van Peters of Hillsboro, Voth stationed fire trucks to prevent the cattle from being burned to death.

Peters expressed his appreciation to county commissioners Monday morning.

“We didn’t know what we were going to do,” he said.

Whether the fire was ignited by a carelessly tossed cigarette or by a passing diesel engine is not known, Voth said.

The county had been under a red flag fire warning, and no controlled burns were allowed.

Another fire broke out shortly before midnight Sunday. Hillsboro and Lehigh fire departments were called to a fire at 190th and Diamond Rds. After fighting the fire two hours and establishing a burned area around it, they left burning debris in the middle, where it could not spread, as rain began to fall.

“We were able to get it stopped pretty quickly,” fire chief Ben Stekette said. “Ryan Peters was out there with his tractor with his disk. After we got the corn stubble wet, he just pushed it in.”

Firefighters in the county fought numerous other fires over the weekend.

Marion’s municipal dump site had an out-of-control burn during the large grass fire. It was handled by Marion and Peabody firefighters.

At 9:37 a.m. Saturday, Marion, Hillsboro, Lincolnville, and Florence firefighters spent 2½ hours fighting a grass fire that started in a ditch on US-56 between Timber and Upland Rd. and spread a mile north.

At 11:38 a.m. Saturday, Peabody firefighters went to Peabody’s municipal burn site to check smoldering remains of a fire there.

At 2:15 p.m. Saturday, an unauthorized burn south of Peabody’s Dollar General caught a shed on fire. That fire was fought by Peabody, Florence, and Burns firefighters for 1½ hours.

Speaking to county commissioners Monday, interim emergency manager Marcy Hostetler said: “It’s not just Marion County. Kansas was burning.”

Last modified Oct. 27, 2022

 

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