Leavenworth County firefighters, emergency management director help with wildfires

By John Richmeier
Leavenworth Times – March 14, 2017


Several firefighters from Leavenworth County and the county's emergency management director spent time last week helping to combat wildfires in other areas of the state.


Leavenworth County Emergency Management Director Chuck Magaha traveled to Clark County in southwest Kansas.


Magaha said this is the site of the largest wildfire in the state's history. He said the fire has burned 76 percent of Clark County, or about 730 square miles in the county.


Multiple wildfires have been burning across Kansas. So far, the fires have burned across 919,000 acres in the state.


In addition to Magaha, firefighters from Fairmount Township and the city of Tonganoxie also responded from Leavenworth County to the fire in Clark County. Members of the Kickapoo Township Fire Department helped with a fire in Reno County, which is northwest of Wichita.


Magaha offered assistance in Clark County by serving as a plans section chief. Magaha said he helped to plan for what assets would be needed each day.


Magaha left March 7 for Clark County. He returned Saturday.


Magaha said firefighters from across the state as well as other parts of the country have provided assistance with the fire.


He said eight helicopters as well as a number of fixed wing aircraft were being used to dump water on the fire.


Clark County is a rural area. Magaha said the total population of the county is about 2,200.


A truck driver died from smoke inhalation after his vehicle crashed in Clark County.


"The smoke was so intense he couldn't breathe," Magaha said.


Magaha said 22 homes in the county have been lost in the fire. An additional 28 structures also have been burned in the county.


Magaha said between 3,000 and 9,000 cattle have been lost.


The fire in Clark County is now considered 95 percent contained.


Ray Ward is one of two members of the Kickapoo Township Fire Department who traveled to Reno County last week to help with a fire there.


He left March 6 and returned Wednesday.


Ward said he and fellow Kickapoo Township firefighter Brad Myhand had the primarily duty of protecting structures from the fire.


Ward said the feeling he received by helping save people's homes was the best part of his service in Reno County.


"They were very appreciative," he said.