Winds should ease, helping firefighters

The Associated Press - March 8, 2017 10:03 am

Firefighters from across Kansas and Oklahoma battle a wildfire near Protection, Kan., Monday

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) – Winds are expected to diminish as emergency crews in four states continue to battle wildfires that have killed six people and destroyed hundreds of square miles of land.

The Oklahoma-based Storm Prediction Center says powerful wind gusts that fanned the flames in Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma and Texas should ease to about 10 to 20 mph on Wednesday.

Wildfires in Kansas have burned about 1,000 square miles of land and killed one person. As many as 2,000 firefighters are battling those blazes.

At least four people died in Texas, where three fires burned about 500 square miles. Authorities in Oklahoma say a woman had a fatal heart attack while trying to save her farm from one blaze.

Emergency officials say eight people have been treated at hospitals for breathing-related complications from smoky air caused by massive wildfires in Oklahoma.

The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management says hospitals reported the injuries from the wildfires still burning in the Oklahoma Panhandle.

State forestry officials say three fires have burned more than 500 square miles in the Panhandle, including one large fire that has crossed over the state line into Kansas. Officials say they haven’t been able to contain the fires at all as of Wednesday morning.

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin on Tuesday declared a state of emergency in 22 counties.

All of eastern Colorado is classified as either moderately or abnormally dry, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

About 2,000 firefighters are battling wildfires in Kansas that have consumed more than 1,000 square miles.

Kansas Department of Emergency Management spokeswoman Katie Horner says the number of helicopters dumping water on the fires will increase Wednesday from six to nine. This is possible because flying conditions are safer due to calmer winds.

More than half of the blaze has burned in Clark and Comanche counties, both ranching and farming communities along the state’s southern border with Oklahoma. Horner says she can’t yet provide a cost estimate of the fire damage.

The most populated area affected is Reno County, where 10,000 to 12,000 people voluntarily evacuated their homes Monday. By Wednesday, 1,000 to 2,000 residents of the county remained displaced.


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