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County issues formal disaster declaration

Staff writer

Last week’s grass fire that consumed 240 acres near 270th and US-56/77 was declared a disaster Monday by county commissioners.

The fire, reported at 1:33 p.m. Wednesday, was a controlled burn that got out of control.

In all, 10 fire departments — two from outside the county — fought the blaze.

Initially, Lincolnville firefighters were called, but none were available for more than an hour.

Marion firefighters were summoned instead. They soon requested assistance from Lost Springs and Ramona firefighters.

Nearly an hour into the effort, Marion’s assistant chief, who was in command, radioed that it was getting out of hand.

Goessel fire chief Matt Voth volunteered to activate a task force of Durham, Goessel, Hillsboro, and Lehigh firefighters to assist.

Lincolnville firefighters also responded shortly thereafter.

Marion ambulance was called as a precaution.

County road and bridge workers brought tankers of water and fuel.

Sheriff’s deputies also responded.

A Kansas Forestry Service aerial tanker was put on standby, but was not ultimately needed.

Firefighters from Hope, Herington, and Woodbine also were summoned, though some out-of-county firefighters had difficulty finding a radio talk group that would allow them to communicate.

A call to Woodbine firefighters were canceled after firefighters on the scene got better control of the fire, emergency manager Marci Hostetler said.

“They didn’t call in Florence,’ Hostetler said. “and Peabody was already in Harvey County to fight a fire,”

Otherwise, all county fire departments were involved.

The fire was contained after two hours. Firefighters remained on the scene until 5:45 p.m.

It apparently began on land at 2380 270th, owned by Ira Walker III.

The landowner was taken to the ambulance during the fire but declined to be taken to a hospital.

The disaster declaration, signed by commissioners Monday, is a requirement when firefighters are summoned from other counties, Hostetler said.

Commission chairman David Mueller made a verbal disaster declaration during the fire to summon help from outlying areas.

A signed declaration of disaster must follow.

“Extremely dry conditions existed in Marion County,” the declaration states. “The combination of dry grassland, accompanied by gusty winds increased the risk of wildland fire spread.”

Last modified March 29, 2023

 

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