A massive wildfire has set the prairies of Kansas and Oklahoma ablaze.
The Anderson Creek Fire is still burning across the Southern Plains. The wildfire started on March 22 west of Alva, Okla., near Camp Houston. Initially the fire was 40 miles long and 5 miles wide, but high winds averaging 30 mph and gusts up to 65 mph increased its path.
The Oklahoma Forestry Services reports 397,420 acres of grassland and farmland have burned so far. The fire also moved north into Kansas, burning property in both Comanche and Barber Co.
The towns of Sun City, Lake City and Medicine Lodge, which are near the most intense fire and smoke, were under voluntary evacuations. Medicine Lodge’s hospital was even evacuated.
The fire continues to blaze. Winds have changed direction from the southwest back to the northwest. “It is making a move back across to Oklahoma,” says Michelle Finch-Walker, communications specialist with Oklahoma Forestry Services.
Fire crews have been diligently fighting the flames, but as of Thursday, authorities say there has been 0% containment of the fire. The cause for the fire is still under investigation.
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has declared a “state of disaster emergency due to major wildfires in the area.” The move authorizes state resources to assist areas impacted by the Anderson Creek Fire in Kansas.
Both the Oklahoma Forestry Services and Kansas Livestock Association (KLA) have reported no losses of cattle, but multiple houses and structures have been lost to the fire.
One area rancher told KWCH the fire burnt all of his property and the adjoining ranch, approximately 20,000 acres.
At the same time more fires are burning in Kansas to the northeast. A grassfire in Reno and Harvey Co. reportedly burned down one home, several outbuildings and killed livestock. According to a local fire chief the fire burned 3,500 acres.
“We’ve been in contact with several of our members down in that area. I think at this point they’re just in the evaluation stage,” says Scarlett Hagins, KLA's communications program manager.
Livestock producers who have been reached by KLA have managed to pen cattle up away from the threat of fire. There could be some animals that might be impacted by smoke inhalation.
Hay donations are being taken at the Farmers Cooperative (S. Central Ave.) in Coldwater and Farmers Cooperative Equity Company (1447 NW River Road) in Medicine Lodge.
“There are some efforts going on to at least get those cattle that are penned fed,” Hagins says. Monetary donations can be made through the Kansas Livestock Foundation, the charitable arm of KLA. (To help, send a check payable to the Kansas Livestock Foundation and put “disaster relief” in the memo line. Donations may be sent to KLA, 6031 S.W. 37th St., Topeka, KS 66614.)
Cattle producers Brad and Greg McCurry spent yesterday driving cattle to safety on their family operation near the Reno-Harvey Co. fire:
In Chase Co., a wildfire came in close proximity to Drovers associate editor Laura Mushrush's family ranch. Here is a photo her brother shared on Facebook:
Earlier in the month a 40,000 acre fire burned east of Wichita near the community of Beaumont.
The risk of fire remains high in much of the Southern Plains' region. NOAA's National Weather Service projects a critical fire risk from Clovis, N.M. east towards Plainview, Texas, and Altus, Okla. The critical risk moves north to Great Bend and Hutchinson, Kan. It covers a land area of 70,252 sq. miles with a population of 652,716.
An elevated risk of wildfire goes as far west as Arizona and north into Nebraska: