USA — Two McPherson firefighters are recovering after being burned when their firefighting brush truck was swept over by a grass fire Saturday southwest of McPherson.
Lt. Randall Willems and firefighter Josh Brewer were treated at the burn unit of Via Christi St. Francis Regional Medical Center in Wichita.
Brewer was treated for burns to his hand and face, and smoke inhalation. He was released from the hospital Sunday. Willems was treated for burns to his hands, arms and face and was released Monday morning, McPherson Fire Chief Dennis Thrower said.
The McPherson department was one of six area departments responding Saturday to two separate fires occurring about 12:35 p.m. in southwest McPherson County. The larger fire covered about 700 acres, the smaller blaze spread across about 90 acres, Capt. Neal Schierling with McPherson County Rural Fire District No. 5, said Monday.
Officials think the fires may have been started in ditches from sparks from a pickup truck with a worn wheel bearing, Schierling said. The fires were about a mile apart and were close to the McPherson-Rice county line. They were under control by about 3:30 or 4 p.m., he said.
Stuck in the mud
Willems and Brewer’s fire unit became stuck in a mud hole that wasn’t visible because of tall grass, Thrower said.
The fire “advanced on them unexpectedly and overtook them so quickly,” Thrower said, that they had no chance to use the truck sprayer to keep the flames at bay.
“The vegetation is very dry right now, due to it just coming out of winter,” Thrower said.
Afterwards, the two men were able to walk to the road where there were other fire units there to assist. A helicopter flew Brewer to the medical center in Wichita, while Willems was taken there by ambulance. Both are expected to fully recover from their injuries, Thrower said.