Out-of-control prescribed burn threatens homes in southeast Riley County over the weekend

(Riley County, KS – March 7, 2023) This weekend, a permitted outdoor burn in southeast Riley County got out of control, burning over 300 acres of grassland and threatening structures and outbuildings in the area of Deep Creek Road. Concerned residents called 9-1-1 and Riley County Fire District #1 was dispatched to the area just after 2:00 PM on Saturday, March 4. A total of nearly 30 firefighters responded on 14 apparatus, with mutual aid from 3 brush truck units and personnel from Wabaunsee County Fire District #8 and 1 brush truck unit and personnel from Manhattan Fire Department.

“This was a fast-moving fire that threatened multiple homes,” said RCFD#1 Deputy Fire Chief John Martens. “We could have seen millions of dollars in damage without the aid of volunteer firefighters and mutual aid crews. It could have been truly devastating for the community.”

Crews attacked the fire for approximately two hours and remained on scene until around 5:00 pm to monitor remaining hot spots and ensure the safety of residents. No injuries were reported as a result of the fire and no structures or livestock were lost.

“Last year we had several major wildfires in Riley County and many across the state. Much of our landscape is fuel rich, very dry, and ready to burn with high intensity, and we ask people to stay vigilant this season,” said Martens.

“If you’re conducting a burn, make sure you have enough people and equipment to control the fire. If you see an unattended fire or suspect an out-of-control fire in your neighborhood, call 9-1-1 right away,” said Riley County Emergency Management Director and Fire Chief Russel Stukey.

Outdoor burn permit holders are responsible for the fires they set, including the potential damage that may be caused and the smoke the fires produce. Agreement to those terms is part of the burn permit process. Following best practices for outdoor burning is a crucial safety component.

“Conducting an outdoor burn is a major responsibility and the fire must be monitored until completely extinguished or adequately contained. Fire can get out of control quickly and can be active for several days or even longer in certain circumstances. The consequences of an out-of-control fire can be disastrous,” said Stukey.

The first step in the process to conduct an outdoor burn is to contact Riley County Emergency Management 785-537-6333 to apply for a burn permit. Staff will share advice and information for conducting the burn safely.

Procedures for controlled burns include the following:

Find more information at www.rileycountyks.gov/fire and https://www.kansasforests.org/fire_management/fireprevention.html 

The Kansas Forest Service also provides prescribed burning classes to property owners. More information is available at https://www.kansasforests.org/fire_management/prescribedfire.html 

Sign up for emergency notifications, including burn condition notices, at www.rileycountyks.gov/alerts.

Riley County Fire District #1 provides primary fire protection and emergency response to protect the lives and property of residents, businesses, and visitors across the unincorporated areas of Riley County, Kansas as well as several local communities inside the district including Leonardville, Ogden, and Randolph. Our primary response area includes suburban and rural areas totaling approximately 450 square miles and automatic aid with the City of Manhattan and the City of Riley.

Riley County Fire District #1 is the largest consolidated volunteer fire department in the state with 120 volunteers and 15 fire stations throughout the county. RCFD#1 is currently accepting applications for a variety of volunteer roles. Anyone interested in joining the department can learn more online at www.rilecountyks.gov/fire or by calling (785) 537-6333 during regular business hours. Follow RCFD#1 on Facebook /RCFD1, Twitter @RileyCoFire, and Instagram RileyCoFire.

Sign up for the KCLY Digital Newspaper, The Regional