(Riley County, KS - April 10, 2023) Two major fires burned more than 3,500 acres last week. Both were prescribed burns that got out of control. Thankfully, no structures were lost and no injuries have been reported.
On Thursday, April 6, Riley County Fire District #1 crews were dispatched to Halls Ravine Road, north of Randolph for reports of a wildfire. A prescribed burn in the area got out of control, burning private land and igniting flood debris on U.S. Army Corps of Engineer property.
A total of 22 RCFD#1 personnel responded on 11 apparatus, with mutual aid support from 2 Waterville Fire Department Units and 1 Manhattan Fire Department Unit. They were able to bring the fire under control that evening. Unfortunately, shifting and swirling winds rekindled the fire overnight, and crews were dispatched to the area again Friday, April 7. An estimated total of 1,500 acres were burned in this fire.
“Our main advice is to be vigilant when conducting prescribed burns,” said Deputy Fire Chief Doug Russell. “Weather conditions can change quickly, and landowners have a major responsibility to maintain safety when burning.”
On Friday, April 7, RCFD#1 was dispatched to Tabor Valley Road in SE Riley County for reports of a prescribed burn that was out of control. Upon arrival, crews found heavy smoke and a large area burning. A total of 22 personnel responded on 12 apparatus.
An estimated 2,000 acres burned in this fire. A horse and donkey were threatened but were evacuated safely.
“There were several miles of active fire line among various controlled burns and lots of smoke in the area,” said Deputy Chief John Martens. “The permit holder who started the 2000 acre fire was not on scene when we arrived and unable to be located. Several adjoining landowners and neighbors were responding and trying to protect their land and other areas not intended to be burned.”
The Riley County Police Department was requested to the Tabor Valley Road fire, but no contact had been made with the permit holder at the time of the fire.
“Agricultural burning was allowed in the morning, and the landowner had a permit to conduct the burn. However, a major part of the requirement is that anyone conducting a permitted burn must remain on scene and have enough equipment and personnel to conduct the burn safely,” said Martens. “We are investigating if the permit holder fulfilled their obligation to comply with burn permit requirements.”
RCFD#1 crews responded to four additional fires over the weekend, but the Tabor Valley and Halls Ravine Road fires were by far the largest.
“This has been a difficult season,” said Russell. “Conditions are extremely dry, and several fires have gotten out of control. We’re fortunate to have such a dedicated crew of volunteers in Riley County. They are exhausted, but they continue to respond to support their neighbors and help keep the community safe.”
Dangerous fire weather is expected to return to the region tomorrow, with warm temperatures and winds gusting to 20-30 MPH. Today may be the last day agricultural burning is allowed for several days. Last week, a total of 61 permitted agricultural fires burned 21,000 acres in Riley County.
A map of all recent, active, and out-of-control burns is available on the Riley County website at www.rileycountyks.gov/fire in the burn permit section. For more information about burn permits or to apply to serve as a volunteer with Riley County Fire District #1 call 785-537-6333 during business hours.
Sign up for emergency notifications, including burn condition notices, at www.rileycountyks.gov/alerts