KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — High winds hindered the efforts of emergency personnel battling wildfires Tuesday in Texas, Colorado, Kansas and Oklahoma that have forced hundreds of people from their homes and destroyed several buildings.
Dry conditions also have brought a red-flag warning of critical wildfire conditions in Iowa, Missouri and Nebraska, the National Weather Service said.
A pair of fires in the Texas Panhandle burned more than 195 square miles. One of the blazes near Amarillo threatened about 150 homes, while a separate, larger fire in the far northeast corner of the Panhandle near the Oklahoma border was only 5 percent contained as of Tuesday morning, according to Texas A&M Forest Service.
Forest Service spokesman Phillip Truitt said as many as four firefighters were hurt battling the fires Monday. He provided no details on their conditions Tuesday morning.
In Colorado, a fire in rural Logan County burned more than 45 square miles, forced the evacuation of three schools and threatened as many as 900 homes. The Logan County Emergency Management Office said at least four structures, including three homes, were destroyed.
More than 70 firefighters from 13 departments battled the blaze, which was reported east of Sterling on Monday morning. The fire, which was driven by wind gusts of nearly 50 mph, jumped Interstate 76 and spread into Phillips County.
In Kansas, wind-blown fires blazed in 21 counties over the course of Monday, with rural fire crews struggling to keep up, The Wichita Eagle reported. The fires forced the evacuations of several small towns and the closure of some roads, including a couple of short stretches of Interstate 70 in Lincoln County and nearby Ellsworth County in the central part of the state. A stretch of a U.S. 54 in south-central Kansas’s Pratt County also was closed Monday because of smoke linked to a fire near a cotton gin and surrounding grassland.
“The bottom line is we can’t stop the fire, so we’re just trying to save houses and people,” said Millie Fudge, the emergency services chief for south-central Kansas’ Clark County, where more than 900 residents of two towns were evacuated Monday afternoon as the fires that began in Oklahoma pressed closer.
The Eagle reports that the 500 residents of Protection in Comanche County evacuated their homes Monday evening, and Wilson officials were also encouraging residents to leave that Ellsworth County town.
Two grass fires near Hutchinson also charred about 6,000 acres. Some 300 people have been allowed to return after they were evacuated over the weekend because a blaze threatened their homes and a golf course.