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Wildfires Rage in Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma and Texas

Grass fire in Reno County.  (Photo from Reno County Fire District #6 via KMUW Radio)

UPDATE on Kansas Wildfires from the State Emergency Operations Center:

The counties of Clark, Ellis, Ellsworth, Hodgeman, Lincoln, Reno, Rooks, and Russell are still battling active fires. Fires in Clark County have destroyed more than 351,000 acres of land. Damage has been reported to approximately 30 structures and bridges in the county. Additional damage assessment will be completed when crews can enter restricted areas.

Ford County reports seven homes were destroyed. The fire department monitored hotspots overnight to keep fire away from structures.

Reno County officials estimate 6,000 acres have burned in the county; 4,500 acres of that is from the Highlands Area subdivision grassfire. At least 30 homes are destroyed, with the possibility that more are damaged. Local officials have been unable to get into the area to assess damages due to the fire.

An estimated 10,240 acres have burned in Rooks County. Two homes were destroyed. The grassfire is contained and fire departments have a plan to monitor hotspots.

A bridge in Meade County was also reported destroyed.

Four helicopters equipped with 660-gallon Bambi buckets launched at daylight today (TUE) to continue to assist affected counties with fire suppression. Two helicopters and crews are based out of Topeka and two are out of Salina.

The American Red Cross opened shelters for displaced residents in Coldwater and Dodge City. Current plans call for those shelters to shut down today (TUE). The shelter at the Kansas State Fairgrounds, 2000 N Poplar Street, in Hutchinson will remain open until further notice.  A shelter also was opened in Jetmore at the 4-H Building on the Hodgeman County Fairgrounds.

The Kansas Division of Emergency Management is urging anyone wishing to contribute to disaster relief efforts ongoing in Kansas to donate cash to disaster relief organizations rather than donating goods. KDEM recommends Kansans consider donating to reputable disaster relief organizations of their choice or local organizations within the affected communities.

There were multiple road closures due to the fires; all roads are currently open. Information on road closures is available from the Kansas Department of Transportation by calling 5-1-1 or visiting the Kandrive website at kandrive.org.

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The Latest on Wildfires Burning Across Nation's Midsection

Authorities say wildfires have burned about 625 square miles in Kansas, damaging dozens of structures and forcing thousands to evacuate. Some roads were also closed, including a couple of short stretches of Interstate 70. Crews used two Black Hawk helicopters Monday to dump water on some of the Kansas fires. Kansas Department of Emergency Management Katie Horner says 10,000 to 12,000 people voluntarily evacuated their homes Monday night in Reno County. She says 66 people were in shelters Tuesday in Hutchinson as crews continued fighting fires that started over the weekend.  The largest of the Kansas blazes was burning in the rural southwest part of the state, in Clark County, where about 545 square miles has burned. Horner says 30 structures have been damaged, and bridges have been compromised. That fire is now 61 percent contained. The county seat of Ashland was evacuated. It's nearly 900 residents were sent to nearby Coldwater to wait out the fire. About six dozen residents of Englewood, in Clark county, were told to evacuate to Oklahoma. The town of Protection, in Comanche County, was also evacuated. However, the evacuation orders for Protection, Ashland and Englewood have now been lifted.

A truck driver was killed after he jack-knifed his semi and was overcome by smoke from the wildfires around 5:30 Monday evening. The Kansas Highway Patrol says 39-year-old Corey Holt of Oklahoma City was headed north on K-34 in Clark County and tried to back up due to poor visibility and dust from the wildfires. His semi went off the roadway, jack-knifed, and became stuck. Troopers say Holt got out of the truck and was overcome by the smoke from the wildfires.

Evacuations were also been ordered in Russell, and Comanche counties. Elsewhere, grass fires burned in Rooks County, to the east and west of Stockton, in northwest Kansas. In all, fires flared up in 21 Kansas counties. Horner says all but four of the state's 105 counties are under red-flag warnings of critical wildfire conditions.

Firefighters in Oklahoma, Colorado and the Texas Panhandle are also battling blazes. Texas A&M Forest Service spokesman Phillip Truitt says four firefighters were hurt Monday as one fire intensified near Amarillo and another larger one spread in the far northeast corner of the Panhandle near the Oklahoma border. Truitt said Tuesday that one of the firefighters injured worked for Pantex, the nuclear facility northeast of Amarillo. Truitt says the larger fire covers some 156 square miles near the Oklahoma border.

In Colorado, a fire in rural Logan County burned more than 45 square miles, forced the evacuation of three schools and threatened as many as 900 homes. The Logan County Emergency Management Office said at least four structures, including three homes, were destroyed.

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