RILEY COUNTY (KSNT) – A wildfire in rural Riley County burned more than 300 acres and threatened several homes with destruction Monday.
Vivienne Leyva with Riley County reports that firefighters responded to a quickly growing wildfire March 20. The fire started near the intersection of Highway 177 and Deep Creek Rd. as a grass fire and was able to expand due to high winds. Firefighters with the Riley County Fire District #1, Kansas Forest Service, Geary County Rural Fire Department Explorer Post and Wabaunsee County Fire District #8 worked together to fight the fire from the land and air.
The fire was fully contained by 6 p.m., according to Leyva. An estimated 300 acres burned in around two hours.
“This fire moved with incredible speed,” said Deputy Chief John Martens with the Riley County Fire District #1. “Fire conditions were extremely dangerous with high winds, low humidity, and warm temperatures. I’m thankful for the support of our volunteers and neighboring agencies who stepped up quickly to provide aid and attack this fire.”
Leyva said more than 16 homes were threatened by the fire but no structures were lost and no injuries have been reported.
The Riley County Board of Commissioners declared a local disaster emergency, activating disaster emergency plans to fight the wildfire, according to Leyva. The fire posed a significant threat and had the potential to cause widespread damage, injury and loss of life in disaster proportions. This declaration will be in effect for a week unless ended earlier or renewed by the commission.
“I signed the declaration to make sure key resources were put in place to help fight this fire and keep everyone safe,” said Commission Vice-Chair John Ford.
The cause of the fire is not currently known, according to Leyva. Arson is not suspected by investigators at this time.
“While the cause is unknown, it’s likely that the sparks from a vehicle or trailer, or an improperly discarded cigarette caught the grass in the median on fire,” Martens said. “From there, the fire spread quickly. We’re hoping spring rains provide some relief, but it’s never a good idea to throw cigarettes out of your vehicle. Always dispose of smoking materials responsibly to avoid causing fires like we saw today.”
If you own property in Riley County and sustained property damage from the wildfire on March 20, you can reach out to the Kansas Insurance Department Consumer Assistance Hotline at 1-800-432-2484 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. if you have questions about insurance coverage or are having an issue with your insurance company. The Kansas Insurance Department also has a Live Chat feature available from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday by clicking here.