Fire crews battle weekend blazes

By Stephanie Casanova
Manhattan Mercury – March 21, 2017


Riley County firefighters responded to 13 fires over the weekend, saving at least nine structures from damage. One homeowner went to the hospital with a burn on his hands and at least one hay barn burned.


Pat Collins, emergency management director, told Riley County commissioners Monday that two of the fires were set on the same property, one at 12:20 a.m. Saturday and a second at 1:27 a.m. Sunday.


Collins said the property owner called from Anchorage, Alaska asking what was going on. He said the owner told him there is a tenant staying on his property who is supposed to be leaving in July. Collins said he considers the fires suspicious in nature.


Eight of the nine calls Saturday occurred between 11:27 a.m. and 4:22 p.m. with two of them three minutes apart.


“At one time on Saturday we had six calls going at the same time. We had every truck except for Ashland in the county out,” Collins said. “We paged every station, just didn’t get a response from Ashland.” Collins said he had to send fire trucks from Ogden to a fire near Tuttle Creek Lake because the firefighters closer to the lake were at other fires.


Most of the fires were started as controlled burns that got out of control on a hot an windy weekend.


“It was bad. We just didn’t have anybody else to send and fires just kept popping up,” Collins said. “And it was about the time when the wind changed — that’s when everybody lost their fire.”


The injured homeowner lived near 5640 W. 59th Ave., near Tuttle Creek Lake.


The largest fire was in Leonardville, on Kansas Highway 82 north of U.S. Highway 77, which spread across 160 acres and took 40 firefighters seven hours to control.


That fire jumped Calvary Road but firefighters were able to stop it before it reached two nearby homes, Collins said.