KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The winds fueling deadly wildfires that scorched vast swathes of land in four Plains states finally dropped Thursday, bringing hope to crews trying to contain the blazes. Emergency personnel warned, however, that extremely dry conditions and hot spots could cause a flare-up, even in areas where there's "not much left to burn."
Most of the burned land is in Kansas, where about 2,000 firefighters have been battling a series of blazes that consumed about 1,000 square miles and damaged or destroyed dozens of structures. The firefight Thursday was focused on four counties, down from 21 on Monday.
Cattle graze with a background of smoke from wildfires near Hutchinson, Kan., Tuesday, March 7, 2017. Fires raged in parts of Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Colorado, and warnings that conditions were ripe were issued for Iowa, Missouri and Nebraska. The fire warning came after powerful thunderstorms moved through the middle of the country overnight, spawning dozens of suspected tornadoes, according to the National Weather Service.(AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
One blaze, encompassing two counties along Kansas' southern border with Oklahoma, is the largest wildfire on record in Kansas. Emergency officials said
Thursday that crews are monitoring hot spots after the fire was 70 percent contained in Comanche County and 50 percent in Clark County.
Monitoring is crucial because the ground is "extremely dry," and it was possible that sparks from a smoldering stump could re-ignite the fire, said John
Lehman, the emergency manager in Comanche County, where 234 square miles has burned.
"I guess you kind of feel that things are against you," he said.
A wildfire last year that burned land in Comanche County and neighboring Barber County held the previous state record.
"It doesn't take anything to get a fire going and they're hard to put down. It's just so dry," Lehman said.
In neighboring Clark County, where 625 square miles has been consumed, emergency management spokeswoman Allison Kuhns said: "Frankly, there is not much left to burn." The state's sole fire victim was a semitrailer driver who succumbed to smoke in the county Monday after his rig jackknifed.
Kansas crews also are monitoring what's left of a fire near Hutchinson that destroyed nine homes and burned about 11 square miles, along with a Rooks County fire that is 97 percent contained.
The weather could at last work in the firefighters' favor: Winds across west and central Kansas and into the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles will range from 10 to 15 mph Thursday, down from earlier in the week, according to Jared Leighton, a National Weather Service meteorologist.
In the Texas Panhandle, fires have burned about 750 square miles, killing three ranch hands as they tried to save cattle and a man who was caught in smoke as he attempted to drive home from work. Two of the state's three fires are fully contained, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service. The largest — which burned about 500 square miles in the northeast Panhandle near the Oklahoma border — was 75 percent contained Thursday.
About 545 square miles also has burned in Oklahoma, where a woman had a deadly heart attack while trying to protect her farm. State forestry officials said Thursday that the three fires were 10 percent contained and that crews were working to suppress hot spots.
No deaths were recorded in Colorado, where more than 45 square miles burned.
Associated Press writers David Warren in Dallas and Jill Bleed in Little Rock, Arkansas, contributed to this report.
Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris is scheduled Friday to tour the Otay Mesa Immigration and Detention Facility, where she will visit migrant mothers who were separated from their children.
As the weather heats up, County Animal Services says you may see more rattlesnakes out and about. The department has already received 656 rattlesnake calls since the beginning of the year, 100 more than last year at this time. Some 30 calls came in since last Wednesday.
A bleeding, gravely injured man banged on the door of a Lemon Grove home in an apparent last-gasp plea for help, and his death a short time later prompted sheriff's deputies to launch a homicide investigation, authorities said Friday.
High pressure over Northern Mexico will warm temperatures Friday. Coastal areas cooler due to weak onshore flow. Excessive heat warning in effect for San Diego County deserts through Friday evening.
Two dogs attacked a woman and her toddler son on an East County roadside Thursday, leaving them seriously injured, authorities said.
Come into Battle Axe and you are sure to learn a thing or two. The "axperts" will teach you two-handed throws and a little humility.
A local trash collector found a tiny treasure – and a friend for life - on the job recently. Michael Cabrera was finishing up his shift one night when he found a kitten trapped in his truck.
San Diego Border Patrol agents, who are enforcing the Justice Department’s ‘zero tolerance policy,’ have become targets of abuse over social media as the immigration debate continues.