(Riley County, KS - April 3, 2023) Riley County Fire District #1 battled three wildfires over the weekend. Thankfully no homes were lost and no injuries have been reported.
The first fire started Friday evening in Southeast Riley County, near Gehrt Road and Hwy 177. RCFD#1 was dispatched at 5:15 PM for reports of heavy smoke at the urban wildland interface, where the forest meets a neighborhood. An estimated four acres of cedar timbers and dense forest burned.
Crews found areas on fire near several homes, yards, and ditches, as well as two spot fires started by embers that blew across HWY 177 in the strong winds. The fires were brought under control quickly, but volunteer fire crews and neighbors worked for more than four hours in the steep, wooded terrain to extinguish smoldering trees and debris. A total of 32 firefighters responded on 14 apparatus.
The cause of the Gehrt Road fire is undetermined but neither arson nor foul play are suspected.
“Cedar burns quickly and intensely, and fire danger was extremely high on Friday, with winds gusting to 60 MPH” said Fire Chief and Emergency Management Director Russel Stukey. “Flames were visible for miles, but thankfully burned out quickly. This fire threatened multiple homes and in some cases came within feet of damaging property. I continue to be grateful for the work of our volunteer fire crews - we’ve had a lot of close calls this season and their quick response times are the main reason we’ve been able to keep people and property safe.”
Two prescribed and permitted agricultural burns got out of control on Saturday. One was in the area of Stockdale Park Road, the other was near Peach Grove Road. At this time, there is no estimate for the number of acres burned.
“My best advice is to stay aware of the weather,” said Stukey. “On days where fire danger is high, limit outdoor activities that cause sparks, such as welding or metal work. Also make sure you’re always following the requirements of a burn permit if you’re doing any Ag or brush pile burning when conditions allow.”
Fire danger has been extremely high this season. The National Weather Service in Topeka issued a Fire Weather Warning in effect for Tuesday, April 4th. Low relative humidity, warm temperatures reaching into the 80’s, and winds gusting up to 50 MPH will again create critical fire conditions. Any fires that develop will likely spread rapidly. No outdoor burning is allowed in Riley County today or tomorrow.
For more information about burn permits or to apply to serve as a volunteer with Riley County Fire District #1, visit www.rileycountyks.gov/fire or call 785-537-6333 during business hours.
Sign up for emergency notifications, including burn condition notices, at www.rileycountyks.gov/alerts