News Briefs

National Guard deploys helicopters to wildfires burning in Kansas

By: - December 16, 2021 12:54 pm

A wildfire burns the tracks under a train in Kansas (Lane County Sheriff’s Office via Facebook).

The Kansas National Guard will deploy helicopters in an effort to put out wildfires in several counties in central and western Kansas, several state departments said in a news release Thursday.

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly declared a state of disaster emergency last week because of the risk of fire.

According to the news release, the Kansas Army National Guard will deploy Black Hawk helicopters to assist local responders in areas that are difficult for ground crews to reach. The Kansas Forest Service will also have air tankers on standby.

“Prepositioning firefighting personnel and equipment in western Kansas along with those assets responding will allow our aviation assets to quickly respond and keep Kansans safe,” Kelly said in the news release. “Local responders work heroically to respond when wildland fires threaten their communities and the state stands ready to back them up, if needed.”

Low humidity and abundant dry grass made the state susceptible to wildfires. Wednesday’s extraordinary storm system, which brought winds of more than 100 mph in some parts of Kansas, only added to that risk.

Scott Blair, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Kansas City said in some cases, power lines blown over in the high winds started grass fires.

Though the extraordinary weather system also brought thunderstorms, high winds started long before and continued after the rain. Those winds made putting out fires more difficult.

The winds also brought smoke from the fires east across the state, affecting the air quality in Topeka and western Missouri on Wednesday night.

While the winds have died down, risk of wildfires across central and western Kansas remained Thursday, according to the news release. Most of Kansas is in an enhanced, significant or critical fire danger outlook.

This story was originally published by the Kansas Reflector, a States Newsroom affiliate. 

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Allison Kite
Allison Kite

Allison Kite is a data reporter for The Missouri Independent and Kansas Reflector, with a focus on the environment and agriculture. A graduate of the University of Kansas, she’s covered state government in both Topeka and Jefferson City, and most recently was City Hall reporter for The Kansas City Star.

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