Monday afternoon grass fire burns 35 acres in Ellis County

Hays Post – February 21, 2017

Ellis County Rural Fire crews were called to a grass fire Monday afternoon in the area of 2500 Feedlot Road.

Crews were initially called to a structure fire just after 4:15 p.m. with crews from Hays, Ellis, Victoria, Catharine and Munjor all responding. When they arrived on scene, they instead found a grass fire.

Director of Fire and Emergency Management Darin Myers said the fire burned approximately 35 acres of CRP, pasture and milo stubble.

The fire was fueled by strong north winds and, according to Myers, it was almost a mile long but only a couple of hundred feet wide.

Myers said they were fortunate that so many crews responded because of the conditions “it could have been a lot worse.”

A total of 12 trucks and 33 firefighters responded to the fire. The cause of the fire was undetermined.


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Hutchinson firefighters commended for lifesaving November rescue

By Adam Stewart
Hutchinson News – February 21, 2017

Photo by Sandra J. Milburn

Photo by Sandra J. Milburn

Hutchinson Fire Department publicly commended seven firefighters at Tuesday’s city council meeting for a lifesaving rescue during a November apartment building fire.

Late Nov. 21, firefighters were called to two apartment buildings on fire at Ridgewood Apartments. Knowing there was someone trapped upstairs by the fire, firefighters began a high-risk search and rescue procedure, Deputy Fire Chief Doug Hanen said Tuesday. They found the victim and got her out after cutting through a wall and bringing her down a ladder unconscious. She was taken to Hutchinson Regional Medical Center and made a full recovery, Hanen said.

Everyone else in the apartment buildings were able to make it out on their own.

On Tuesday, Hanen presented framed commendations to seven firefighters involved in the rescue. They are:

Fire Fighter Dalton Black
Fire Fighter Raymond Casanova
Fire Driver Danny Chambers
Fire Fighter Zachary Heath
Fire Driver Ronald Kaufman
Fire Fighter David Mancillas
Capt. Ryan Winters

The commendations said: “In recognition of your selfless efforts on the evening of November 21st, 2016. Your dedication made the extrication of an unresponsive victim from the second story of a well involved apartment fire possible. Your courage and dedication shall be an example for others within the Hutchinson Fire Department to follow for years to come.”


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Fire in Landmark Building quickly extinguished

Hutchinson News – February 21, 2017

Photo by Chad Heuback

Photo by Chad Heuback

Firefighters quickly put out a blaze late Monday at the downtown Landmark Building in Hutchinson.

The Hutchinson Fire Department was called to the building the 500 block of North Main at about 11:15 p.m. after a passerby reported the fire.

The fire on the third floor was under control in 15 minutes, but crews stayed on the scene for about an hour for salvage and helping with the investigation.

Damage to the building, which was vacant, was estimated at $1,000. There were no injuries.

The fire’s cause was thought to be from a discarded cigarette.


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Jim Bell


Jim Bell, 44, of Olathe, KS, passed away with family by his side, on Feb. 17, 2017. He was born on Aug. 21, 1972, in Kansas City, KS, to Robert P. and Loretta Bell. Jim is survived by his wife of 10 years, Courtney Bell; sons, Brayden and Brennan; parents; brother, Thomas A. Bell; his extended family, many friends, and his firefighter family from CFD2. To know Jim is to love him. He was a devoted father who rose to the occasion to be involved with his boys. His willingness to help others never went unnoticed. Jim was an avid outdoorsman with a passion for adventure, which included ATVs, skiing and hunting. He was a firefighter for NE Consolidated Fire District No.2 for 16 years.

Visitation on Friday, February 24, 2017 from 4:00 – 7:00 p.m. at Westside Family Church, 8500 Woodsonia Dr., Lenexa, KS 66227. A funeral service will be held on Saturday, February 25, 2017 at 10:00 a.m. at Westside Family Church. Burial at Resurrection Catholic Cemetery.

By Roxie Hammill – Kansas City Star

Northeast Johnson County firefighters will be out in force this weekend to honor the memory of Jim Bell, who died Feb. 17 after a skiing accident in Colorado.

Members of Consolidated Fire District No. 2 will assist in Bell’s funeral with an honor guard at the service Saturday and a small procession of trucks to the burial site, said Chief Tony Lopez. They’ve also set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for Bell’s family.

Bell’s death at age 44 was a shock to fire and support workers who knew him as an avid athlete and outdoorsman, Lopez said. He reportedly suffered a head injury Feb. 13 while on vacation with his family in Crested Butte, Colo. After a few days on life support in Grand Junction, the Olathe firefighter succumbed.

His funeral is set for this Saturday,at 10 a.m. at Westside Family Church, 8500 Woodsonia Drive in Lenexa. Visitation is from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Friday at the same location.

Bell was a 16-year veteran of the force who was specially trained in rescues that involve heavy equipment, such as trench and building collapse, Lopez said. He was well known around the station as an outdoor enthusiast who enjoyed skiing and mountain biking.

“He was full of life and he was a bull of a man,” Lopez said. “He was just a can-do kind of guy. We’re having a hard time getting our arms around that this happened.”

Bell leaves behind a wife, Courtney and two grade-school-aged boys.

Colleague and friend James Hansen said he’ll remember Bell especially for the love he had for his children. Bell would walk them to school and make arrangements to be home in the after school hours to go biking with them when possible.

Hansen and Bell joined the fire district at about the same time. He remembers Bell as outgoing – so much so that Bell’s wife dubbed him the “mayor” of the Stonebridge subdivision where they lived, Hansen said. “He invited myself and the kids over and we couldn’t get five feet without him stopping and talking to somebody,” Hansen said.

Hansen went mountain biking on local trails with Bell and remembers him as an avid hunter who taught gun safety to his kids. He was safety conscious and always wore helmets when doing activities like biking and motorcycling, Hansen said.

“He was a wild man but still took the necessary safety precautions,” he said.

Bell was also an assistant wrestling coach for all grade levels at Blue Valley Northwest High School from 2008 to 2013.

Bell leaves a lasting impact on Hansen’s life in another way, he said. Shortly after they were hired, confusion over which was Jim and which was James ended in Hansen getting the permanent nickname “Junior.”

Bell was among the firefighters deployed to Greensburg, Kan, after the 2007 tornado that destroyed that town. The district shared a photo of him on its Facebook page after he came across a “Save Bell” sign left in the wreckage of a church.

Bell’s friends at the district have set up a fundraising page to help pay for his sons educations. The page, at, raised about $12,000 in its first two days. For those who don’t want to donate online, an account is being established at the Mainstreet Credit Union in Olathe.

There’s been an outpouring of support, especially from law enforcement and fellow firefighters since Bell’s death made the news, Lopez said.

“It’s been almost overwhelming,” he said. Many of the offers were to fill in for CFD No. 2 personnel during the service.


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Dry conditions, strong winds fuel damaging blazes

By Greg Mast
Ottawa Herald – April 21, 2017

Dry conditions coupled with unseasonably warm temperatures and wind make it ripe for wildfires in Kansas.

The Ottawa area has only received just a little more than an inch of rain in 2017. Alan Radcliffe, county emergency management director, said the fire danger came early this year.

“Typically, it’s March and the first two weeks of April,” he said. “We had a lot of rain last year. We have some extra growth.”

Radcliffe, who also is the Pomona Fire Department Assistant Chief, said the conditions make it dangerous for firefighters because of the changing winds, height and dryness of the grass.

“It is hard for fire departments to defend houses because it will burn right across the top of your yard,” Radcliffe said. “We are going to have some pretty dangerous fires this year.”

Radcliffe said the biggest problem with controlled burns is the switching winds.

“If you follow the Kansas Open Burning Regulations, it says you should burn between five and 15 miles per hour wind,” he said. “Typically on those days, you have good smoke disbursement and the wind is constant out of one direction. What you have to look for sometimes is (if) we have any cold fronts coming in, which may make for a wind change. Where we see a lot of our problems this time of year are days like (this past Wednesday) with light and variable winds, then the wind shifts. A person will go out and light a fire and think it is going to travel this direction, and the wind changes and it gets away from them.”

Radcliffe, who also is the county fire marshal, makes the decision on whether there is a burn ban or not. The whole northeast area of Kansas had a Red Flag burn warning last week. He said a lot of factors go into the decision to have a non-burning day.

“One of those is how dry things are, what the wind is doing, what the humidity is going to do, our temperatures, and I take in consideration during the week the availability of firefighters,” Radcliffe said. “If we have a questionable day right now, I am going to err on the side of caution.”

Radcliffe said the county has nine volunteer fire departments, and many times during Monday through Friday those firefighters are unavailable because of work schedules.

Radcliffe said a fire that torched 160 acres this past Wednesday was a good example, as four county departments fought the fire, but only 10 volunteer firefighters were available.

“We are shorthanded during the week,” he said. “We still have fire equipment in the fire stations and don’t have anybody to drive the equipment to the scene. It makes it tough.

“At the beginning of any fire, we are limited in what resources we have coming. We take those fire trucks that we have and protect everything we can, and then start fighting the fire when we get more resources there.”

Radcliffe said firefighters use various maneuvers to fight grass fires, especially if the winds are high and shifting.

“The fire departments will have to get on them pretty quick,” he said. “…It is always our priority to keep people safe, then protect property, houses, out buildings, stacks of hay. Generally, there is a reason firefighters do what they do. One of the tactics used is back burning. People don’t understand sometimes why we are lighting more fires. We are getting rid of the fuel with that fire coming to it. It will help control it or get it away from a structure. You will see some of those tactics used this spring to help protect some of our firefighters.”

Emergency management has meetings every other month with county fire chiefs and assistant fire chiefs, Radcliffe said.

“In those meetings, we talk about issues, concerns, how we are going to do things,” he said. “We had a meeting last month and talked about the burn season. Every fire chief knows everyone in the county. We work together and we train together.”

Radcliffe said he takes into consideration the entire county when making decisions regarding fires. He said having four departments on one fire puts a strain on the resources.

“If we have another fire, who are we going to call to handle those fires?” he said. “I look at the whole county as a picture. We try to make sure the county is protected.”

Before starting a controlled burn, preparation is important, he said.

“Mow around where you are burning or disc around it, however you can control it,” he said. “They need to have a water source there so they can control the fire. If one does get away, don’t think you can put it out, call the fire department. We would much rather put out a small fire than spend all afternoon on a large fire and have several departments called.”

Radcliffe said fires can get out of control fast. One of the fires last week started when a person tried to burn rubbage in a small garden, he said.

“One hundred and sixty acres later, we put the fire out,” Radcliffe said. “It went half-a-mile where it started. This time of year, that is what can happen. When those winds pick up, they will get away from you.”

Radcliffe said there are reasons whey they require people to buy a $1 burn permit.

“With our permit system, we are able to control locally whether burning is allowed or not,” he said. “That is a mitigation tool to help mitigate some of our bad fires. Wildfires are our No. 1 hazard in the county because we have so many of them. They can threaten a lot of homes. If we can put burn bans on, maybe we don’t have as bad of fires. We still have the potential of having one.”

Radcliffe said many of the county permit regulations are the same as the Kansas regulations. One of those is not to burn by yourself and notify the neighbors you are burning, he said.

Another part of the permit is before burning, individuals should call to listen to a recording that notes if burning is permitted that day.

If a person follows the burn permit guidelines and has experience burning, the circumstances usually turn out OK, Radcliffe said.

Radcliffe said he understands the frustrations of county farmers when they can’t burn on days when there is warm weather.

“Anytime you get 50-degree weather, people want to go out and clean up around their place,” he said. “We understand it is time to burn. I try to work with everybody…between the fire departments and the people that want to burn. I know it needs to be done.”

Many times, Radcliffe said he tells the farmers with experience in burning that he has to think of the whole county, and he can’t let one burn and another not.

“We have several pretty good-sized farms in the county,” he said. “They have their own equipment. They know how to burn. We have a lot of people that have small acreages and some of those don’t have experience burning. That creates an issue too where we got more homes close to each other. We have to protect those homes. That is one of our priorities.”


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Grass fires increasing throughout county

By Gail Parsons
Abilene Reflector Chronicle – February 21, 2017

Photo by Paul Froelich

Photo by Paul Froelich

A sure sign spring is right around the corner are plumes of smoke rising in the distance and the acrid smell of burning fields.

Landowners have started burning, and dry weather has helped sparked numerous small fires around the county.

Dickinson County fire departments have responded to 25 grassfires since Jan. 1, including two on Wednesday afternoon — 10 more than they had during the same time last year.

Dickinson County Emergency Communications Director Russ Wilkins said only five of the fires the county’s fire departments have responded to this year started as controlled burns.

“When it gets really dry and windy, most of them are caused by people throwing out cigarettes, sparks from vehicles and people that are burning trash that blows out of the container,” he said.

To illustrate how quickly and easily a vehicle can cause a grass fire, Wilkins mentioned an incident in January in which a Hesston police vehicle was destroyed. The officer had pulled over just off Interstate 135 for a foot pursuit when the heat of the vehicle ignited the grass and weeds.

“It doesn’t take much to start a fire,” he said.

Dickinson County has 13 fire districts — all but two are manned completely by volunteers.

“Even though they are volunteers, they have a pretty good response rate,” Wilkins said. “But it can be hard for them to keep a good volunteer fire department because it cuts into everyone’s day. So many people work out of town, if you have a good burning grass fire in the middle of the afternoon on a Tuesday, you could be shorthanded.”

In addition to the accidental fires, controlled burns necessary for maintaining healthy pastures and farmland can easily get out of control.

Before a landowner starts a prescribed burn they need to contact the fire district or districts containing the land they intend on burning.

Wilkins said it is all too common for someone to call in after they have started the burn. “Then they find out their fire district is under a burn restriction,” he said.

Even if the weather is forecasted to be conducive to the burns, people who want to burn still need to call in. Sometimes the fire chief in a district will put the area on restriction because he knows, for whatever reason, the volunteers will not be available should the fire get out of control.

It is also helpful for when people who are driving by see what seems to be an unattended fire and calls it in.

“We’ll check our map and see if we have any controlled burns in that area; if we don’t, we’ll send the fire department out,” Wilkins said.

If for no other reason, landowners should call in advance to avoid a potential penalty that could be as much as a $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail.

By the numbers

Grassfires reported in 2015 — 203

Grassfires reported in 2016 — 159

Grassfires reported from Jan. 1 to Feb. 15, 2015 — 11

Grassfires reported from Jan. 1 to Feb. 15, 2016 — 15

Grassfires reported from Jan. 1 to Feb. 15, 2017 — 25

2017 grassfires as a result of controlled burns going out of control — 5.


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Small grass fire misses nearby structures

By Rocky Robinson
Salina Post – February 21, 2017


A Saline County resident stepped outside to find a fire in their backyard Sunday afternoon, according to authorities.

A page went out shortly after 4 p.m. yesterday regarding a grass fire encroaching on structures near north Fairchilds. Fire District No. 3 responded, putting out the fire before it reached any of the nearby outbuildings. According to Scott Abker, fire chief for FD No. 3, the resident helped protect some of the surrounding structures, dousing the area with a garden hose.

Fire crews got the fire under control before it was able to spread. According to Abker, it consumed one or two acres. Authorities are not sure what started the fire but Abker says dry conditions have kept them on alert.


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