Cimarron National Grassland fire burns 19,000 acres so far

Cimarron National Grassland fire burns 19,000 acres so far

08 May 2011

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USA: ELKHART – A wildfire at Morton County’s Cimarron National Grassland has burned 19,000 acres so far and crews are still working to get it contained.

The fire began about 1 p.m. Sunday just four miles north of Elkhart, on U.S. Highway 27, in the far southwest corner of Kansas. The first call reported the fire on U.S. Highway 27 in Cimarron National Grassland.

Jace Ratzlaff, spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service office in Colorado that manages the national park, said he didn’t know of any structure damage. Crews have kept the fire to grassland and brush.

As far as he knows, the fire hasn’t jumped onto private land.

“It’s very dry out there,” Ratzlaff said, but added he didn’t know just how the fire or the lingering drought would affect cattle grazing until after the fire is contained and grassland damage can be evaluated.

The U.S. Forest Service is calling it the Tunner Fire. Ratzlaff said the cause is under investigation.

All of Morton County, however, is in an extreme to exceptional drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Exceptional is the highest rating the monitor gives.

Several fire crews, as well as local fire departments, are battling the blaze on the 108,000-acre grassland, Ratzlaff said.

Fire crews from Colorado and Oklahoma were helping Kansans on Sunday put out the fire, which Sunday was moving east toward Stevens County, according to the Morton County Sheriff’s Department on Sunday.

“Anyone and everyone is helping to fight the fire,” Tarah Burnett, a dispatcher with the Morton County Sheriff’s Department, said Sunday.

Pike and San Isabel National Forests, Cimarron and Comanche National Grasslands (PSICC) have officials on site. The fire behavior was considered extreme Sunday evening, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

“The fire is gradually moving east and is actually moving toward Stevens County, where their fire crews are waiting for the fire,” Burnett said. “We have volunteers with water tankers from a lot of different towns. Fortunately, we have Panhandle Baptist Church’s relief group from Guymon, Okla., supplying food and water.”

Three federal engines are also on site, and the U.S. Forest Service is working with local counties and cooperators to suppress the fire. A Type 3 Incident Commander was ordered among other resources.

The temperature in Elkhart was 91 at 7 p.m., according to Burnett. South winds continued to gust at 20 to 30 mph, according to Dodge City’s National Weather Service. A red flag warning would remain in effect until 9 p.m. today and a fire weather watch has been issued through Tuesday afternoon.

Temperatures are forecasted to reach 94 degrees in Morton County today, with a southwest wind of 11 to 14 mph increasing to between 23 to 26 mph, according to the National Weather Service.

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