Local KSN News
ASHLAND, Kan. (KSNW) – Ranchers in Clark County are still learning how much they’ve lost in cattle.
“I’ve cried a lot of tears and tried to stay strong,” said Garth Gardiner, Kansas rancher.
Gardiner’s ranch in Clark County was hit hard by the fires.
About 80 percent of his 50,000 acres were burned in the fire, and he lost a third of his cattle.
“We’re kind of just estimating that we lost over 500 cows.”
For Gardiner, that is a massive loss. More than $600,000. Recovery will be tough.
“It’s kind of like being down 30 in a basketball game at halftime. You’re not going to get all those 30 points back in one possession. We’ve got to chip away at this.”
With his grazing land gone, he’s welcomed donations of hay for his surviving cattle.
“I don’t think you understand how close you are until you get a text from someone whose land and livelihood is burning up, and they ask do you need any help, and I’m like, ‘Seriously?'”
Gardiner said he’s fortunate that he hasn’t had to put down any of his cattle, unlike his brother and many other ranchers.
He’s now focused on saving his surviving livestock and finding strength where he can find it.
“This community is tough, and they’ll survive, and we’ll do it together.”
ANDOVER, Kan. (KSNW) – Two people were seriously injured in a house fire in Andover Wednesday afternoon. The fire occurred in a home in the 600 block of S. Dublin shortly before 3:30 p.m.
Andover Fire dispatchers confirmed fire units were called in from Sedgwick County to help battle the blaze. When they arrived on the scene, they found the two victims outside the home. Both victims suffered serious smoke inhalation and minor burns
Officials said a cooking fire in the kitchen got out of control. Most of the damage from the fire was confined to the home’s kitchen.
A dog that was in the home also was saved.
Fire officials did not give a damage estimate caused by the blaze.
TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNW) – Kansas has set a new record, As of March 8, more than 502,000 acres have burned in Clark County and Comanche County making it the most widespread single fire on record for the state.
For comparison, the Anderson Creek fire of 2016 burned some 312,427 acres in Barber and Comanche Counties.
Since March 4, large grass fires have been reported in 23 counties, consuming more than 650,000 acres in all and the figure is still climbing. Although most of the fires have been contained, fires are still burning in Clark, Comanche, Ellis, Reno and Rooks Counties.
Governor Sam Brownback declared a state of disaster emergency on March 5 to expedite state emergency response assistance to affected counties.
The Kansas Division of Emergency Management activated the State Emergency Operations Center in Topeka and has staffed it to coordinate state response operations.
Sadly, we have set a new record in Kansas for acres burned in a single fire at more than 500k acres in Clark and Comanche Counties.
— KDEM (@KansasEmergency) March 8, 2017
The previous record for acres burned in a single fire was 312,427 acres in Comanche and Barber Counties in 2016.
— KDEM (@KansasEmergency) March 8, 2017
WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – The United Way of the Plains loaded up a truckload of donated items Wednesday.
Three Sam’s Clubs in Wichita came together to send a number of supplies to Hutchinson.
United Way officials said it was Sam’s Club idea, and they were happy to help.
“People want to figure out how to help and United Way wants to be that link in the community to be able to address needs, and having Sam’s is a good community partner to reach out to us, knowing we’re helping, and we’re a reliable source to reach out and help people,” said Mark Stump, United Way of the Plains.
The United Way of the Plains is partnering with United Way of Reno County and United Way of Dodge City to respond to the wildfires in those areas.
Ways to donate:
1. Online: www.unitedwayplains.org/disasterfund
2. Texting: text TEAMWORK to 41444. You will receive a link to complete your gift online.
3. Mail: make checks payable to United Way of the Plains and include “Reno County Fire” or “Ford County Fires” in the memo. Mail to United Way of the Plains, 245 N. Water, Wichita, KS 67202.
United Way of the Plains will not charge administrative fees. Credit card processing fees apply to online donations and mobile giving.
Individuals wishing to donate items to help emergency personnel or victims should call 2-1-1 (United Way’s 24-hour information line). Callers can have their items added to a “virtual warehouse”. The item(s) and donor(s) will be tracked and items will be requested as needed.
PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) – The state’s newest casino and hotel complex is getting closer to opening.
Officials with the Kansas Crossing Casino + Hotel say the $80 million facility near Pittsburg will have its grand opening April 8.
The first day will include opening the casino floor and two restaurants, as well as the first concert at The Corral, the indoor entertainment venue. The act for that concert has not yet been announced.
The development that will feature more than 625 slot machines, 16 gaming tables, a 123-room Hampton Inn and Suites and entertainment complex.
Kansas Crossing will join state-owned casinos Dodge City, Mulvane and Kansas City, Kansas. The state owns the casinos but they are built and managed by private companies.
Native American tribes also own several casinos in the state.
WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – The Sedgwick County Attorney’s Office said 22-year-old Michael Cornilius Ross was found guilty Tuesday in 17-month-old Gracie Harris’ death.
Harris died after Ross beat her. The girl had a seizure, vomited, and passed out. The girl was taken to the hospital in critical condition. She was taken off of life support back in Nov. 2015.
Ross was found guilty of second-degree intentional murder, alternative first-degree murder, and child abuse.
Ross will be sentenced on April 20 at 1:30 p.m.
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) – A Wichita car dealer will pay restitution after the engine in a car he sold failed 25 miles from the dealership.
The Sedgwick County District Attorney’s office said in a news release Wednesday that Jones & Co. Auto Group entered a consent judgment with his office.
Spokesman Dan Dillon says the auto dealer will pay about $6,300 in restitution to the customer, civil penalties, expenses and court costs.
The office says the vehicle fell below legal standards and selling it was “unconscionable acts and practices” involving car sales.
In Kansas, automobile suppliers are prohibited from selling cars “as is,” and must disclose specific defects to consumers.
Under the consent judgment filed March 1, Jones & Co. Auto Group agreed to refrain from the deceptive or unconscionable practices.
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) – Douglas County authorities are investigating after a person’s body was found inside a burning car at a campground.
The sheriff’s office say deputies went to the Rockhaven Campground at Clinton Lake Wednesday after someone reported a car was on fire.
Deputies discovered the body inside the car after the fire was extinguished.
No other details were immediately available.
LANE COUNTY, Kan. (KSNW) – Six homes in Lane County were lost during a wildfire on Monday.
Lane County Emergency Management Director Bill Taldo said 57,000 acres burned. He said 60 head of cattle were lost.
At least 50 power poles were damaged.
One ambulance was lost because of an accident with smoke.This photo shows fire damage to homes in Lane County. (Courtesy: Bill Taldo)
TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNW) – The Kansas Department of Health and Environment encourages farmers and ranchers who have lost livestock in the ongoing wildfires to contact the agency as soon as possible for assistance with disposing of dead livestock.
KDHE’s Bureau of Waste Management can help farmers and ranchers determine the safest and most effective means of livestock disposal. The agency works with the Kansas Department of Agriculture to help with disposal, including selecting and permitting locations for those who wish to bury dead livestock on-site.
Farmers and ranchers who have lost livestock in the fires should contact Ken Powell, Compliance and Enforcement, Waste Reduction and Assistance Section Chief for the Bureau of Waste Management, at 785-296-1121 or Ken.Powell@ks.gov.
HUTCHINSON, Kan. (KSNW) – Officials in Reno County gave an update Wednesday on the wildfire fight. The Highlands fire has been 75 percent contained with 6300 acres burned. So far, officials said eight homes were destroyed, and several others were damaged.
The evacuation area still extends from 43rd Ave. to 108th Ave from Plum to Old K-61 Highway. Officials said 82nd Ave. remains closed between Plum and Monroe. K-61 has reopened.
Firefighters worked hotspots overnight and identified areas to work today. Firefighters will work to keep the fire from spreading north. Four Black Hawk helicopters will continue air drops that trucks can’t get to. Utility companies will also be in the area to check on power lines.
Officials said two firefighters received minor injuries. One received back injuries, and the other was splashed with muriatic acid. That firefighter was transported to the hospital as a precaution.
— Ashonti Ford KSN (@AshontiFordKSN) March 8, 2017
LAWRENCE, Kan. (KSNW) – Kansas Men’s Basketball Coach Bill Self has suspended Josh Jackson for the first game at the Big 12 Tournament. The suspension is related to a Feb. 2 incident.
Coach Self said Josh was involved in an automobile accident when he backed into a parked car on campus and left the scene without leaving contact information.
“Josh has acknowledged his responsibility and has handled it himself, he didn’t tell me about it until Monday. He should have left his contract information at the time and notified us immediately,” Coach Self said in a statement.
TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNW) – The Kansas Department of Emergency Management said a seventh Black Hawk helicopter has been deployed to help battle the fires across Kansas.
The department was able to obtain video from inside a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter fighting the Kansas wildfires on Tuesday.
They dropped about 138,000 gallons on fires near Hutchinson in Reno County, where 10,000 to 12,000 people voluntarily evacuated their homes.
New estimates indicate Kansas wildfires have burned more than 1,000 square miles, up from 625 square miles.
The Kansas Division of Emergency Management said late Tuesday that the heaviest damage is in Clark County, where 548 square miles have burned.
Another 235 square miles have burned in neighboring Comanche County.
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – Gov. Mary Fallin is giving her approval to a federal agency’s decision that paves the way for the Shawnee Tribe to build a $25 million casino near Guymon in the Oklahoma Panhandle.
Fallin announced Tuesday that she agrees with the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs’ decision to place a tract of land 4 miles southwest of Guymon into trust for the Oklahoma-based tribe, which has no jurisdictional land of its own.
Plans to build the 42,000-square-foot Golden Mesa Casino near Guymon drew some opposition, including from state Sen. Bryce Marlatt of Woodward who complained the Shawnee Tribe had no historical ties to the area.
Casino supporters say the facility will create 175 jobs and draw visitors from the Texas Panhandle, New Mexico, Colorado and Kansas.
HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) – New estimates indicate Kansas wildfires have burned more than 1,000 square miles, up from 625 square miles.
The Kansas Division of Emergency Management said late Tuesday that the heaviest damage is in Clark County, where 548 square miles have burned. That fire started in Oklahoma before moving into the Kansas ranching community.
Another 235 square miles have burned in neighboring Comanche County, Kansas.
The state says six other counties are battling blazes. Among them, estimates of the burned land range from a single square mile to about 90.
Kansas National Guard Black Hawk helicopters have been assisting with the firefight. They dropped about 138,000 gallons on fires near Hutchinson in Reno County, where 10,000 to 12,000 people voluntarily evacuated their homes.
WILSON, Kan. (KSNW) – A Kansas Highway Patrolman captured video of a fast-moving wildfire on Monday near Wilson in Ellsworth County.
Trooper Tod Hileman was on I-70 during the fire helping to divert traffic. He said in a post on Facebook that he was one mile west of Wilson on eastbound I-70 when the fire had jumped I-70 to the east. Trooper Tod said as he was turning people around the fire spread west.
During that time, a semi became high-centered in the median. Trooper Tod said he grabbed the driver and headed west. Both made it out of the fire in time.
In the post, he also added, “Just like to give props again to all the firefighters who kept this from getting into the town of Wilson. Be smart and be safe in all this wind Kansas!”
HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Winds are expected to slow down Wednesday, but weather conditions are still not ideal for emergency crews battling deadly wildfires in largely rural areas of four states, which have choked the air with smoke and burned hundreds of square miles of land.
Bill Bunting, forecast operations chief for the Oklahoma-based Storm Prediction Center, said the powerful gusts that fanned the wildfires in Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma and Texas should ease to about 10 to 20 mph on Wednesday. He expected temperatures to peak in the 70s, with afternoon humidity low.
“These conditions will make it somewhat easier for firefighting efforts, but far from perfect. The fires still will be moving,” Bunting said. “The ideal situation is that it would turn cold and rain, and unfortunately that’s not going to happen.”
Nearly 6 million people live in areas at risk of critical wildfire conditions, including Tulsa, Oklahoma, Oklahoma City and Kansas City, the Storm Prediction Center said. Forecasters said conditions were also ripe for fires in Iowa, Missouri and Nebraska.
Kansas wildfires have burned about 1,025 square miles of land and killed a tractor-trailer driver who succumbed to smoke after getting out of his jackknifed rig. Kansas authorities said Tuesday that the fires have damaged or destroyed about 70 structures.
About half of the state’s charred land is in Clark County, along the state’s southern border with Oklahoma, where 548 square miles have burned and about 30 homes have been destroyed, said Millie Fudge, the county’s emergency manager. She said she expects the burned land estimates to increase, but that she hopes the fire will be contained Wednesday.
“Who knows what the day will bring,” Fudge said.
Another 235 square miles burned in neighboring Comanche County, Kansas, with smaller areas of burned land from separate fires spread among six other counties. Two-thousand firefighters and nine helicopters are working to control the blazes, which ranged from 9 percent to 90 percent contained.
The most populated area affected is Reno County, where 10,000 to 12,000 people voluntarily evacuated their homes Monday. Up to 2,000 residents are still displaced, said Katie Horner, a state Department of Emergency Management spokeswoman.
The largest of the Kansas fires started in Oklahoma, where it burned an estimated 390 square miles in Beaver County. A separate blaze scorched more than 155 square miles of land in neighboring Harper County and was a factor in the death of a woman who had a heart attack while trying to keep her farm from burning. Oklahoma forestry officials said they hadn’t been able to contain the fires at all as of Wednesday morning.
State emergency officials in Oklahoma also reported that eight people have been treated at hospitals for breathing complications caused by the smoky air.
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin and Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback have declared disaster emergencies.
In the Texas Panhandle, three fires burned nearly 750 square miles of land and killed at least four people. One, near Amarillo, was fully contained by late Tuesday afternoon, while a larger fire in the northeast corner of the Panhandle was 60 percent contained, according to Texas A&M Forest Service. That larger fire was responsible for a death on Monday, authorities said.
A wildfire in Gray County, also in the Texas Panhandle, killed three ranch hands trying to save cattle, said Judge Richard Peet, the county’s head administrator. Three firefighters were hurt battling the fires in Texas, Forest Service spokesman Phillip Truitt said Wednesday.
In northeastern Colorado, firefighters battled a blaze that burned more than 45 square miles and was 50 percent contained Tuesday. Officials said the fire had destroyed at least 20 structures, with no serious injuries.
Dry conditions and strong winds have put the region at risk for wildfires. All of eastern Colorado is classified as either moderately or abnormally dry along with major parts of Kansas, almost all of Oklahoma and some of northern Texas, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
Suhr reported from Kansas City, Missouri.
Associated Press writers Heather Hollingsworth in Kansas City, Missouri; John Hanna in Topeka, Kansas; Dave Warren in Dallas; Jill Bleed in Little Rock, Arkansas; and Colleen Slevin in Denver contributed to this report.
BILOXI, Miss. (AP) — A freight train crashed into a bus full of Texas tourists visiting Gulf Coast casinos, killing four in Biloxi, Mississippi.
Forty people were hurt, seven critically. The cause of the Tuesday afternoon crash remains under investigation.
Witnesses told Mississippi news outlets the bus appeared to have been stuck on the tracks when it was hit. The crossing is on a steep embankment and has a sign warning drivers that it has a low ground clearance.
Authorities on the scene said it took more than an hour to get everyone aboard the bus out of the wreckage. Two people had to be removed with metal-cutting equipment. The CSX Transportation locomotive pushed the bus about 300 feet before coming to a stop with the mangled bus still straddling the tracks.
Jim DeLaCruz, a passenger who was in the back of the bus with his wife, told The Sun Herald (http://bit.ly/2mg9WGz ) that they were trying to get off. “The bus tried to clear the tracks and got stuck right in the middle and it couldn’t budge, and the train just kept coming and kept coming,” he said.
Police chief John Miller said he was unsure why the train was stopped on the tracks.
“We don’t know if there were mechanical issues or what was taking place,” he said.
Miller said the Echo Transportation bus had come from Austin, Texas, carrying passengers to one of Biloxi’s eight casinos. Ameet Patel, senior vice president of regional operations for Penn National Gaming, owner of Hollywood Gulf Coast Casino in Bay St. Louis and Boomtown Biloxi Casino, said the bus was traveling from the Hollywood casino to the Boomtown casino at the time of the crash.
The weeklong trip was organized by a senior citizens’ center in Bastrop, Texas, about 30 miles east of Austin. Some passengers boarded in each city Sunday. They also were supposed to visit New Orleans and then return home Saturday, according to a flier about the tour posted by Texas media.
The names of the dead were not immediately released.
Michelle Crowley of the Biloxi fire department said 40 people were injured; of those, seven were in critical condition.
A woman who lives about a block from where the train and bus finally came to a stop after the train crashed into the bus says she heard a “loud boom” and knew immediately what had happened.
Cecelia McDonald said she ran out of her house and saw a scene of carnage.
Witnesses told The Sun Herald of Biloxi that the bus was stuck on the tracks for about five minutes before the train hit. Some people were getting off the bus as the driver tried to move it, and at least one person was shoved under the bus when the train hit, said Mark Robinson, a Biloxi native.
Robinson told WLOX-TV that people trying to get off were either thrown underneath the bus or run over by the train and that “body pieces were thrown everywhere.”
A nearby car was used as a stepladder after the crash to get people off the bus, and emergency workers pulled passengers through windows.
Robinson said he thinks the train track, which is on an embankment, poses safety issues.
“It’s too steep there,” Robinson said.
In addition the sign warning of a low ground clearance, the crossing has a bell, lights and crossing arms.
Biloxi Fire Chief Joe Boney says rescuers needed one hour and four minutes to clear everyone from the wreckage. Two people had to be cut out of the bus.
Vincent Creel, the city spokesman, said 48 passengers and the driver were on the bus.
The train was headed from New Orleans to Mobile, Alabama, at the time of the crash, said CSX spokesman Gary Sease. He said the train crew was not injured. The single track is the CSX mainline along the Gulf Coast, passing through densely populated areas of southern Mississippi.
Federal Railroad Agency records show 10 trains a day typically use the track, with a maximum speed of 45 mph. Records show there have been 16 accidents at the crossing since 1976, including in 1983 and 2003, each of which involved one fatality. A delivery truck also was struck at the same crossing in January, WLOX-TV reports. No one was injured in that crash.
The bus was marked as belonging to Echo Transportation, which Texas corporate records show is a unit of a company called TBL Group, based in Grand Prairie, near Dallas.
“We can’t confirm anything at this point,” said Elisa Fox, a lawyer for the bus company. “We’re trying to mobilize to assess the situation.”
Federal Railroad Administration spokesman Marc Willis said the agency is sending three inspectors to investigate, while Mississippi is sending one. The National Transportation Safety Board said it also is investigating.
Amy reported from Jackson, Mississippi. Associated Press writers Sarah Smith in Jackson, Mississippi, and Jeff Martin in Atlanta contributed to this report.
7:00AM Winds are light this morning but the air across Kansas is still extremely dry… As you can see by the current dew points, this is basically desert dry air.
5:30AM The story today continues to be the winds… While this morning you will notice the winds have died down quite a bit, in fact calm winds are being reported across much of the state this morning… Gusty southerly winds will return later this afternoon. Winds will not be as strong today as they have been over the past several afternoons, but still breezy and very dry conditions and low humidity will keep fire dangers in the headlines…
HUTCHINSON, Kan. (KSNW) – While crews continue to fight fires across the state of Kansas some Hutchinson residents are coming together in support of the first responders.
As smoke-filled the Hutchinson sky on Tuesday afternoon, hundreds of evacuees were reminded of what they had to leave behind.
“It’s basically that gut-wrench feeling if that could turn one minute, one minute your house could be there, one minute the next, it can’t,” said Kristin Gecho, who was evacuated from her North Hutchinson home on Monday night.
Gecho and her family, like many others, are staying at a Red Cross shelter until they are allowed to return home.
“It’s very much of a waiting game,” Gecho said. “It’s scary.”
Despite the loss of several area homes, the residents in Hutchinson are staying positive. On Tuesday afternoon, dozens of people gathered at the Hutchinson Middle School – 8 to create cards for the first responders.
“We are actually making a poster for the fire department,” said Hannah Johnson, an 8th grader at Hutchinson Middle School.
People from all over the area put their creative skills to the test on Tuesday to tell the men and women fighting the fires how much they’re appreciated.
“They mean a lot to me because they are actually risking their lives to save us. It kind of makes me all warm and fuzzy inside,” said Johnson.
“I think it’s wonderful. I think it’s a really awesome thing that people are doing,” said Kira Sheppard, a student at Hutchinson Middle School.
After the fire danger has passed, the art teachers plan to deliver the cards to the first responders.