Hunky Husband sent me the link to yesterday's posting by The Wichita Eagle, Sweat and luck: How firefighters fought the biggest Kansas fire in a century. The posting contains text, photos, and videos - one video of which is embedded below.
There have been two separate wildfires in Kansas during the past two weeks: The Anderson Creek Fire, in Oklahoma, and The Sharon, Kansas fire in Barber County, Kansas, which borders Oklahoma. I posted Smokey here on Wednesday, March 25, 2016.
Kirk Trekell, the fire chief in Alva, Okla., a town about 25 miles east of Stansberry’s home [a 79-year-old resident who had previously been quoted concerning his efforts against the fire on the 22nd - CC], said he’s always a little anxious with weather like that on March 23. The humidity was about 10 percent, so the grass and trees were dry and brittle. The winds were blowing steadily between 30 and 40 miles per hour, with gusts near 60.
Barber County firefighters are volunteers who are reimbursed $15 per fire for driving to the station. On March 21 they had been responding to a fire near Sharon, Kan., for more than 24 hours when they first heard about the Anderson Creek fire. Rick Wesley, one of the three chiefs in Barber County, sent one man down to Oklahoma to help and, as they finished up near Sharon, called to see if they needed more help. The answer was yes.
“I figured it had gotten pretty big or they wouldn’t be calling us,” Wesley said.
As they worked with local firefighters in Oklahoma, they learned they were going to have to try something bolder [as the fire moved into - CC] Kansas. As Tuesday night began to turn into Wednesday morning, about 25 trucks from Barber and neighboring counties tried to make another stand on Highway 160, about 30 miles north of where the fire had started.
The decision was made to take the risk of starting a backfire. At first, the backfire seemed to be working, but conditions worked against the firefighters.
“The wind was just pretty tremendous the way it was filtered through those canyons and ravines,” said Ken Leu, 77, fire chief in Harper County for the past 50 years, who had come to help.
He watched the distant glow of the two fires colliding through the smoke.
As the fire slowly slipped past the burn line, the winds started to shift east until the fire was, as [Chief] Trekell had foreseen the day before, no longer a few miles wide but now 35 miles of open flame bearing down on Barber County.
The fire had, like a Hydra, split into several head fires now, according to McNamar. As someone whose job as emergency manager was to think about the overall safety risk, he had set the process in motion to declare the fire a disaster beyond the resources of the county to handle.
If they already had trouble defending a couple of miles of fire with 25 trucks, the resources they were going to need to defend more than 35 miles were enormous.
Although the winds wouldn’t allow them to bring in helicopters for a few more days, Barber County officials decided to bring in two incident management teams, which included experts who had worked on some of the country’s biggest forest fires out west, but whose services had never been required on a fire like this in Kansas.
And in a stroke of luck, a group of fire experts was already assembled just 90 minutes away.
Please follow the above link to read the rest of the story and/or to watch other videos. The last report that I saw was two days ago - 95% contained.