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Update on wildland fires

March 5, 2022 | By Bailey Hittle

The Kansas Division of Emergency Management continues to monitor and provide resources to counties in Kansas that are battling wildland fires.

The KDEM activated the State Emergency Operations Center in Topeka to a full activation at 1 p.m. today. Emergency Support Function partners have reported to the SEOC to provide support to county and local responders. Partners located in the SEOC with KDEM are the Office of the State Fire Marshal, Kansas Forest Service, Kansas Department of Health and Environment, Department of Children and Families, Adjutant General’s Department, and Kansas Highway Patrol.

The Kansas Forest Service deployed two aviation resources to the Cottonwood Complex Fires (Reno and Harvey Counties) for fire suppression. The KFS has requested assistance through the Wildland Task Forces. Two KFS personnel and one ground engine are on site at the Cottonwood Complex fires. KFS also deployed one aviation resource and one person to Pottawatomie County.

Due to evacuations in both Reno and Harvey Counties a shelter has been established at the Salvation Army Food Distribution Center, 700 N. Walnut, Hutchinson.

The Kansas Department of Transportation has made a request to the Federal Aviation Administration to close airspace over Reno and Harvey Counties to allow aircraft assisting with fire suppression full access.

Due to the threat of a major disaster, KDEM has requested a Fire Management Assistance Grant through FEMA. The FMAG provides a 75 percent federal cost share and the State pays the remaining 25 percent for actual costs. FEMA has approved the request.

KDEM has tasked two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters from the Kansas Army National Guard to assist with fire suppression in Reno and Harvey counties on Sunday.  The helicopters are flown by members of the 1st Battalion, 108th Aviation and are equipped with collapsible water buckets.  

In addition to Reno and Harvey, counties that have done local disaster declarations are Pottawatomie and Wabaunsee.

“Stay away from all affected areas and do not drive through heavy smoke,” said Angee Morgan, deputy director of KDEM. “Sightseeing puts you in danger and hampers the work of firefighting crews.”

Gov. Laura Kelly issued a verbal declaration of disaster emergency March 3, due to the potential for wildland fires in the state on Friday and Saturday. The declaration allows the state to preposition aerial firefighting assets from the Kansas Forest Service for a quicker response to any fires that may begin.