Pratt firefighters raise

A massive grass fire roared across Pratt County Monday after high winds carried embers from a burr pile fire at the Next GINeration Cotton Gin across U.S. 54 and NW First Street eastward towards NW 70th Avenue.

Smoke from the fire could be seen for miles as the high wind pushed the smoke across northeast of Cullison.

Firefighters from the Cullison Fire Department were called to the gin to attack the fire but high winds gusting to 40 mph carried embers that set fire to the grass, piles of cotton material and cotton bales near the gin.

Then the fire jumped U.S. 54 and the railroad tracks and go into CRP grass on the north side of the railroad. High winds pushed the fire to the northeast and threatened a home in the area. The fire roared through the grass and set some cedar trees on fire north of NW First Street and threatened another home.

Pratt County Administrator of Emergency and Medical Services Mark McManaman began calling for additional units from the other fire districts in the county at Coats, Sawyer, Byers, Preston, Iuka and Township 12.

The fire continued to spread quickly and more fire units were called from several counties including Kiowa, Stafford and Barber Counties.

Pratt County Sheriff Jimmy White ordered a notification of possible evacuation to homes in the path of the fire.

The Southern Pacific Railroad was notified because railroad ties were on fire and heavy smoke had reduced visibility.

For a time, traffic on U.S. 54 continued to travel through the smoke but a minor accident prompted the rerouting of traffic around the smoke. Traffic was shifted south to SW 10th Street, also known as old U.S. 54 highway. An ambulance was later called to the scene to check on the people involved in the accident.

Kansas Department of Transportation set up traffic control to help traffic get safely around the effected area.

Fire continued to breakout a long the path of the smoke with a new fire reported north of the railroad tracks around 2:20 p.m. It was next to a field of wheat and was not expected to travel very far.

The railroad was notified again because fire trucks would be up against the railroad right of way but they were not expected to stop rail traffic, said Tim Branscom, Pratt County Emergency Manager.

An ambulance was called back to the gin with the report of a person being down from smoke issues.

A small fire was also reported north of Pratt on U.S. 281 and one in Sawyer at the intersection of U.S. 281 and K-42.

The call came in about 10:30 a.m. and it took about three hours before units from other counties could be released to return to their own fire districts.

Cullison units remained on scene to help keep control of the fire at the cotton gin and in case the fire should flare up again.

Units from Sawyer were later called to help with a fire in Barber County.

A lack of moisture during February has left grass very dry and susceptible to fire. There have been several fires in the county including one north of Cairo on NE 100th Avenue that burned several acres of CRP on both sides of the road.

There have even been some lawn fires in the city of Pratt because of the dry weather conditions.

@GaleR_Tribune