Fire Devastates Midwest, Brings Communities Closer Together


The last week of February into March left several counties on edge as weather conditions created multiple fast-growing, devastating fires throughout the Midwest.

Grant County Fire Department was dispatched for mutual aid for a large grass fire south of Lakin shortly after 1 p.m., Monday, February 26.

Kearny County Fire Rescue reported the fire was a result of high winds and dry conditions.

“Heavy smoke and the rough, sandy conditions made getting to the fire difficult, if not impossible at times,” shared Kearny County Fire Rescue.

Three agencies provided mutual aid to Kearny County, including: Garden City, Grant County, and Stanton County fire departments. Additionally, numerous tractors and disc operators joined in on the fight against the wildfire. The fire was successfully contained and extinguished with one residence claimed by the flames.

Following the fire, Kearny County Fire Rescue issued the following advice towards citizens and rural landowners preventing fires in the future:

Make sure trailer chains are not dragging.

Do not throw cigarette/cigar butts out the window.

Do not stop on the side of the road with tall vegetation (a hot, vehicle exhaust can cause fire).


Rural landowners:

Disc a wide break around homes, round tops, haystacks, etc.

Stacks of wooden posts and old tires are almost impossible to extinguish regardless of water amount used.

Seward County Firefighters were dispatched to Andrew Lane for a residential structure fire the same afternoon of Kearny County’s wildfire. Upon arrival, first responders reported five residential structures involved, with one on fire towards the back and one in immediate danger by fire. Mutual aid from Stevens, Haskell, and Meade Counties was requested for the eight-acre fire. Two Seward County Firefighters with heat exhaustion were transported to Southwest Medical Center and have since been released. Liberal Area Coalition for Families (LACF) reported eight residences affected with five being declared a total loss. Kerri Edmunds, a Seward County resident, recalled her response to losing her home. “Your initial thought is, all my hard work, everything that I’ve worked so hard for, and it’s going up in smoke,” said Edmunds. “We’re very fortunate that we have the community that we have, and they have reached out and said what we can do, and unfortunately, right now, it’s kind of a waiting game.”

The next day, at 5:02 p.m., firefighters were paged to 532 Arlington Lane for a backyard fire. First responders reported an active fire affecting a residence, two sheds, a fence, and two power poles. After 90 minutes, the fire was under control. All occupants remained unharmed, including two dogs, however, four puppies and a pet bird perished. First responders cleared the scene at 9:02 p.m.

LACF is accepting donations to assist families affected by the house fires. Anyone interested in assisting can donate to LACF at any Equity Bank location in Liberal, and the teller should be informed that it is for the Hayne House Fires. Any checks should be made to LACF with Hayne House Fires in the memo line. Checks and gift cards can also be mailed to LACF, PO Box 631, Liberal, KS 67905. All donations will be given as direct assistance to the families. For more information, contact the LACF at 620-655-7177.

Not even a few hours away, over 60 Texas counties near the Panhandle continue to sustain declared disaster from six ongoing wildfires. Most atrocious of the fires is Smokehouse Creek, which, as of Tuesday, March 5, has burned over 1.3 million acres with only 15% containment since starting on Monday, February 26 in Stinnett. “When you look at the damages that have occurred here, it’s just gone, completely gone,” said Gov. Greg Abbott during a March 1 press conference. “Nothing left but ashes on the ground.”

Evacuations were demanded across the state with many unable to leave. Sadly, at least two people have perished from the largest wildfire in Texas history and second largest in U.S. history. Ranchers have experienced catastrophic loss with cattle deaths estimated in the thousands. Currently, ranchers are collecting hay bale donations. Over 500 structures have been destroyed, which is an approximation due to the ongoing fire battles.

According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, a lawsuit against Xcel Energy has been filed by a homeowner pertaining to the Smokehouse Creek Fire. “The suit alleges that a power pole, owned by Xcel subsidiary Southwestern Public Service Company, fell and ignited the fire.” Investigations into this matter are currently ongoing.

Other Texas wildfires are as follows*:

Grape Vine Creek Fire, Gray County - 34,882 acres, 60 percent contained.

Smokehouse Creek Fire, Hutchinson County - approximately 1,076,638 acres, 15 percent contained.

Windy Deuce Fire, Moore County - 144,206 acres, 55 percent contained.

Magenta Fire, Oldham County - 3,297 acres, 85 percent contained.

Roughneck Fire, Hutchinson County - approximately 300 acres, 50 percent contained.

*Stats are as of Monday, March 4.

Over the weekend, Grant County Firefighters were dispatched to a grass fire near South Road H shortly after 5 p.m., Saturday, March 2. Grant County Fire Chief John Crosby quickly designated firefighters to prevent the fire from depleting land under the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), as well as trees near residential areas. Carl and Betty Pickens, residents on South Road H, watched as firefighters worked tirelessly to protect their community. Betty recalled the fire growing south of her home as the wind shifted. A neighbor arrived with a tractor and offered his assistance to which Carl and Betty’s children gave a big thumbs up. Within a few hours, firefighters were successful in extinguishing the fire, therefore saving land, homes, and lives. The Pickens would like to share the following to Grant County Fire Department: “Thank you to the fire department and others for your help to put out the fire south of our home.”

Throughout the hazardous weather conditions, communities and organizations across the Midwest united for those affected by recent wildfires. Wanda Desselle-Pucket, of Ulysses, along with her husband, son, and daughter-in-law, delivered hay and community donations to the Panhandle on Saturday, March 2.

Currently, Ulysses Future Farmers of America (FFA), along with other southwest Kansas FFA chapters, is accepting donations from various communities through Friday, March 8, to be delivered the following day. Donations can be dropped off at the Ulysses High School office or ag room.


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