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Kiowa County firemen helped with Beaver blaze

Hannah Brown
The Southwest Wildland Task Force from Kansas was requested to assist Beaver, Oklahoma on the 421 Fire.

The Kiowa County Fire Department sent four firefighters to the Oklahoma Panhandle to help battle several raging wildfires. A truck from the Mullinville Fire Department along with a truck from the Greensburg Fire Department headed south on Saturday, March 7 around 11:15 a.m. These members are a part of the Southwest Kansas Wildland Task Force, which was formed in the fall of 2017. Minneola, Ashland, Englewood, Ford County Fire & EMS, and Meade County are also part of the task force. This task force was created to help small, rural communities help each other out.

“It’s like you scratch our back, and we’ll scratch yours,” said Kiowa County Fire Chief Cody Sherer

The four-man crew was originally sent to Beaver County to assist with the large fire there, but they were diverted to a fire south of Knowles, OK. After that fire was contained, the crew continued to Beaver, where several structures on the southwest edge of town were on fire.

“The task force went into defensive and started attacking the East flank of the fire to save structures. After several hours intensive fire fighting the fire was contained to the black at around 8:30 pm.

Kansas firefighters (including those from Kiowa County), Kansas Forest Service wildland fire personnel and Air Tanker 95 returned to their home bases Sunday evening after completing their assignment on the 412 Fire in Beaver County, Oklahoma.

“Kansans should be proud of the efforts of the firefighters who answered the request for assistance by our counterparts with Oklahoma Forestry Services,” said Mark Neely, state fire management officer with the Kansas Forest Service.

More than 70 firefighters from three groups -- the Seven Counties Wildland Task Force, Sedgwick/Sumner County Wildland Task Force and the Southwest Kansas Wildland Task Force -- joined firefighters in Oklahoma on the 412 Fire to improve control lines, conduct mop up and suppress hot spots. Many other Kansas firefighters responded to the fire through existing mutual aid requests.

According to Oklahoma Forestry Services, the 412 Fire was estimated at 29,120 acres with 50% containment as of Monday morning. Very light rain fell over the 412 Fire Monday morning in Beaver County which assisted firefighters as mop-up and patrol efforts continued.

“From past experiences, we know that the best way to protect property and lives in Kansas is to stop a wildfire before it grows to a catastrophic size,” Neely said. “By supporting Oklahoma Forestry Services through the Great Plains Interstate Fire Compact, we are accomplishing our goal to prevent and control wildfires in our region.”

Through the GPIFC, KFS was able to make resources available to Oklahoma Forestry Services, which is in the South Central Interstate Fire Compact. Both compacts are part of the Alliance of Forest Fire Compacts. Within Kansas, the Kansas Forest Service is the point of contact that can order firefighting resources from either the U.S. Forest Service or other states through the Great Plains Interstate Fire Compact.