By Jessie Wagoner
Emporia Gazette – March 20, 2017
Area firefighters were kept busy throughout the weekend battling multiple grass fires.
The most notable and destructive blaze occurred in the 1200 block of Road J, about four miles south of Emporia. The blaze, fueled by strong winds and dry conditions, quickly spread north. The fire was initially reported just before 4 p.m. Sunday afternoon. By the time the fire was extinguished, an estimated 450 acres was burned.
"It was a rekindle from a controlled burn a couple days ago," Emporia Fire Department Battalion Chief Aron Steinlage said. "This afternoon we were in a red flag warning from noon until about 8 p.m. and wind gusts were 28 miles per hour. It was a swirling wind, so we didn't really have any way of stopping both sides of the fire because it just kept blowing it further and further to the north."
After battling the blaze for more nearly five hours, firefighters cleared the scene at about 8:45 p.m. Sunday evening.
One barn was destroyed by fire, but firefighters were able to protect nearby homes and other structures.
"The barn was a total loss," Steinlage said. "But no injuries."
Every fire unit in Lyon County responded to the scene during what was an active end to a busy weekend for local crews.
"The whole county responded," Steinlage said. "All volunteer departments showed up and we had a tinder show up from Dunlap and then we had road and bridge bring their big water truck out. All departments did a great job. Thanks to them for their contribution for helping."
The fire at Road 120 and Road J was one of three grass fires reported within minutes of one another at around 4 p.m. Sunday afternoon.
When that fire was reported, scanner traffic indicated there were about 80 acres on fire and the flames were moving toward a structure.
At about 4:45 p.m., crews on scene reported a garage — later re-classified as a barn — was on fire in the area. It was fully engulfed when firefighters arrived and called out for more assistance.
As of 4:55 p.m., firefighters were working to keep the fire contained to only the one structure. Crews which were finished with the two other fires were also called in for mutual aid. At about 5 p.m., scanner traffic indicated crews were being called in from neighboring counties.
At about 5:05 p.m., scanner traffic indicated a home in the 1200 block of Road J was being evacuated because the flames had crept within 100 feet of the structure. Crews were able to get all occupants out of the house and protect it from catching fire.
At 6 p.m., firefighters from multiple units were still working to put the fire out. Scanner traffic indicated a sheriff deputy was being called to direct traffic in the area of the fire due to heavy smoke blowing across the roadway.
Command started to intermittently cut some crews loose a little before 6:30 p.m. Sunday, as the main fire lines had been stopped. However, as of 7:30 p.m., there were still firefighters on scene attacking areas of smoldering brush, grass and trees.
Emporia - Lyon County, Americus, Olpe and Hartford - Neosho Rapids fire departments were the first dispatched to the area.
Just a couple minutes after the blaze on Road J was reported, another fire was reported near the intersection of Road 120 and Road F. Scanner traffic indicated the fire was located in a ditch. Emporia - Lyon County Fire Department was dispatched to the scene.
That fire was put out quickly.
At about 4:10 p.m., a third fire was reported near the intersection of Road X and Road 180 — straight north of Neosho Rapids just north of Interstate 35. This fire was reported to be a re-kindle from one that started Saturday.
Firefighters from Reading and Miller responded.
About an hour later, the third fire was deemed all clear and crews were sent to assist at the fire south of Emporia.