That’s the number of acres burned on March 6 when three wildfires spread across Oklahoma and Kansas, including South Hutchinson.
Firefighters from around Harvey County worked nonstop to control the fire while the Harvey County Task Force led structural protection efforts, just in case the fire went over the hill and threatened any houses.
Five Hesston firefighters went along, including Freshman John Ebaugh.
“The fire was out of control when we arrived,” Ebaugh said. “All the houses had cedar trees surrounding them, so that increased out fear of the spreading of the fire. If the cedars started to burn, they would send embers flying through the air, and they may land on houses, catching them on fire.”
Ebaugh says he was moved by the cooperation and solidarity of the firefighters.
“I felt like I had a purpose for being there and knew that purpose was to protect the
homes that were in front of me if the fire came,” Ebaugh said. “I had a reason to be there and I knew it. To me, it’s touching to know that we are all in this together, and will work together for the benefit of others and do what we can to help.”
The fire started in Beaver, Oklahoma but quickly spread to the border of Oklahoma and Kansas. Farmers and ranchers worked to put the fires out to save their homes and livestock. Change in direction of the wind caused the fire to shift and many cattle were lost in the fire.
The second major wildfire spread in South Hutchinson, leading to a precautionary evacuation of residents. Most evacuated stayed with friends, family. Some went to the Kansas State Fairgrounds.
Mike Hagley was one of those evacuated. He expressed his appreciation for the firefighters in an article by the Hillsboro Star-Journal.
“The fire roared toward our house and our home was saved by firefighters,” Hagley said. “They have been working incredibly long hours and I’m sure they’re exhausted. Firefighting is one of those professions you don’t think about much until you are about to lose all your heirlooms and familiar surroundings. We are thankful nobody has been injured.”
Although the fire did not burn any of the homes the firefighters were protecting, there was still severe damage done to the grasslands across the state of Kansas.
Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) is lending a hand with grassland cleanup efforts. Jordan Miller, volunteer coordinator, says they could use help.
“Consider volunteering to be a part of the relief effort because it is a great way to live out your faith. Working together towards a common goal that ultimately strengthens God’s kingdom.”
MDS is looking for volunteers for the next 6-8 weeks to help with cleanup in Hutchinson, Comanche, and Clark County. Volunteers should bring leather gloves as they will be rolling up barbed wire, pulling posts, and cutting down trees. MDS will provide lunch and transportation. Contact Jordan Miller at 316-217-4570 or firstname.lastname@example.org with questions.