(Riley County, KS – March 21, 2023) At 1:31 PM Monday, March 20 Riley County Fire District #1 was dispatched to HWY 177 in SE Riley County for reports of a fire in the highway median. Upon arrival, crews found a rapidly expanding grass fire moving to the northeast under high wind and dangerous fire conditions. Due to the speed and intensity of the fire, mutual assistance was requested from Kansas Forest Service, Geary County Rural Fire Department Explorer Post, and Wabaunsee County Fire District #8. A total of 30 personnel responded on 14 apparatus with 4 command vehicles.
Contracted air support from Heinen Brothers Ag Services was provided through the Kansas Forest Service.
The fire was fully contained by 6:00 p.m. An estimated 300 acres burned in two hours.
“This fire moved with incredible speed,” said Deputy Chief John Martens. “Fire conditions were extremely dangerous with high winds, low humidity, and warm temperatures. I’m thankful for the support of our volunteers and neighboring agencies who stepped up quickly to provide aid and attack this fire.”
More than 16 homes were threatened but no structures were lost and no injuries have been reported.
The Riley County Board of Commissioners declared a local disaster emergency for Riley County, activating disaster emergency plans to fight this fire which threatened to cause wide-spread, severe damage, injury, and potential loss of life in disaster proportions. The declaration will remain in effect for seven days unless earlier terminated or renewed by the Commission.
“I signed the declaration to make sure key resources were put in place to help fight this fire and keep everyone safe,” said Commission Vice-Chair John Ford.
The cause of the fire is undetermined after investigation. Arson is not suspected.
“While the cause is unknown, it’s likely that the sparks from a vehicle or trailer, or an improperly discarded cigarette caught the grass in the median on fire. From there, the fire spread quickly in the high winds,” said Martens. “We’re hoping spring rains provide some relief, but it’s never a good idea to throw cigarettes out of your vehicle. Always dispose of smoking materials responsibly to avoid causing fires like we saw today.”
Riley County is proud to have the state's largest consolidated volunteer fire department, with 120 active members. Additional volunteers are always needed, and you can find more information about joining the department online at www.rileycountyks.gov/fire or by calling the office at (785) 537-6333.
Any residents who sustained property damage from today’s wildfire (March 20) can contact the Kansas Insurance Department Consumer Assistance Hotline at 1-800-432-2484 during regular business hours Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. if they have questions about their insurance coverage or are having an issue with their insurance company.
The Kansas Insurance Department also has a Live Chat feature available online from 8:30am-4:30 pm Monday-Friday at https://insurance.kansas.gov/
Photos by Little Apple Post/Becky Goff