By Jared Janzen
BURRTON—Firefighters from eight surrounding agencies teamed up Sunday afternoon to battle a sizeable grassfire northeast of Burrton. About 300 to 400 acres burned in the 3800 block of North Sand Hill Road, or roughly half a square mile.
Crews responded to the scene at 1 p.m., encountering 10-foot high flames. Burrton Fire Chief Jon Roberts said fortunately the humidity was up a little bit; otherwise they could have been dealing with flames as high as 20 to 25 feet.
“Right off the bat it was kind of hectic at the get-go,” Roberts said. “The humidity was up, so that helped a little bit.”
He added that wind wasn’t much of an issue while fighting the fire.
“It burnt, but it wasn’t leapfrogging down the road,” he said. “We were able to get ahead of it and backburn.”
Fields were dry enough that trucks didn’t get stuck to hamper crews.
“We didn’t have any mud issues or get stuck,” Roberts said. “That’s the number one issue when we go off-road, getting stuck.”
The nearest the flames got to a home was a couple hundred yards, according to Roberts. Nearby residents were under voluntary evacuation.
Crews had the fire under control within several hours and remained on scene until 1 a.m. monitoring hot spots. They returned for another check at 5 a.m. Monday.
On Monday afternoon, Roberts said a crew was again currently out checking hotspots and they would probably do so again that evening for a final time.
Roberts said a grassfire in November isn’t out of the norm under the right conditions.
“They can happened at any time if the conditions are right,” he said, adding that if the grass had been greener, if it had had cows eating it, or if it had been mowed, then the grass probably wouldn’t have burned, or at least not as bad.
In comparison, the grassfire north of Burrton in 2016 was significantly larger, burning about 12,000 acres.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation.
Crews from Burrton, Halstead, Hesston, Newton, Sedgwick, Buhler, Hutchinson and Moundridge all responded, as did Burrton EMS, Harvey County Communications and the Harvey County Sheriff’s Office.