KANSAS CITY, Missouri—A series of wind-blown fires have burned an estimated 5,000 rain-starved acres scattered across several Missouri counties, while smaller, more isolated fires were reported in Kansas.
In Missouri, crews worked into Wednesday to monitor the remnants of the blazes that broke out Tuesday when a combination of low humidity, temperatures in the 70s and 40 to 50 mph wind gusts created the “perfect storm for a fire environment,” said Ben Webster, fire program supervisor for the Missouri Department of Conservation.
He said the National Weather Service issued a red flag fire warning Tuesday for all but two Missouri counties. Though a fire threat remained Wednesday and a few smaller fires were reported, the red flag warning had expired, he said.
“Everything is still dry,” he said, adding that Wednesday night’s forecast called for rain. “Really what we are doing is mop-up work, making sure the wind doesn’t blow trees down, that it hasn’t blown anything across those containment lines we put in.”
About 200 firefighters responded to one of the largest fires, which started around noon Tuesday in southwest Missouri’s Dallas County. Before it was contained early Wednesday, it burned about 1,500 acres near Bennett Spring State Park, a popular fishing and float-trip destination.
Officials suspect—but haven’t confirmed—that the blaze was sparked by someone burning brush in a yard, said Buffalo Fire Chief Erich Higgins, the operation commander for the blaze. The fire quickly spread across a dry, wooded area known as the Winchester Gap, which contains hunting cabins and homes. Six cars, seven small outbuildings, a pull-behind trailer and a boat were burned. A home also caught on fire but crews saved it, Higgins said.
Higgins said strong winds were the “main problem” and were to blame for “pushing the fire.” A few areas continued to smolder Wednesday, and officials with the Missouri Department of Conservation were monitoring the area.
Numerous small fires were reported elsewhere in Dallas County as well as neighboring Laclede and Hickory counties. Higgins said Dallas County alone received about 30 fire calls Tuesday, but mostly involved a “couple acres here or there.”
In south-central Phelps County, fire crews worked to extinguish several fires Tuesday. Webster said the largest of which was an approximately 1,000-acre blaze that caused visibility problems for motorists on Interstate 44 near Rolla. He said several structures also sustained damage.
A large forest fire began Tuesday afternoon in southeastern Missouri between Wappapello and Greenville, according to television station KFVS. A country dispatcher told the station that hundreds of acres burned in a 2,200-acre clear cut section of forest. Webster said he was still gathering information about that fire.
Webster said forest fires also were reported Tuesday in central Missouri’s Callaway County and northeast Missouri’s Adair County, although they didn’t grow to the size of the fires in the southern part of the state.
In Shannon County, three fires were burning about 95 acres. Crews said they have formed a perimeter around them and hoped to have them extinguished by about 6 p.m.