Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Grass Fire

Sunday afternoon was fabulous; sunny and in the 80's!
DR and I thought it was too nice to stay at home so we traveled about 35 miles to Meade State Park to the southeast of us.

On the way we spotted a little grass fire being attended to by a couple fire trucks. At the time I thought nothing of it but now it seemed like ominous foreshadowing.

We spend the day walking around the state park enjoying the sunshine and the stiff breeze.

Hmmm, more remnants of fire....

The day was gorgeous as we walked around the lake even though the wind picked up considerably. By the time we loaded into the car to head home two hours later I'd say the wind was gusting into the 40 - 50 mph range. As we were pulling out DR asked me, "Does the sky seem darker to you?" The forecast hadn't been calling for rain that afternoon so when I looked at the sky and saw a haze, not clouds really, and I was confused. Back in Indiana a hazy sky like that meant heavy rain on its way. It looked like a storm was heading our way but I didn't feel the cool air on my skin of a coming of a spring rain. 

Driving home the wind was really kicking up. There were fields full of dust; more dust than I've ever seen in the air before. It was just wild and I thought to myself, "This dust isn't even close to the Dust Bowl days either!" Halfway home one of DR's coworkers called to let him know there was a major grass fire to the west of where we lived, about 35 miles. It was 10-12 miles wide, had jumped a highway and the town of Santana, KS had been evacuated. The fire was heading east and only 12 miles away from one of the elevators that DR manages. The haze we had seen in the sky was smoke and dust was probably from this grass fire which was 50ish miles away.

Five miles from home this is what the sky looked like. A sky that had been bright blue that morning was gray and I could barely see the wind turbines. Needless to say I was getting a bit worried.

When we got home DR immediately left to check on employees of his who had been evacuated and to check on the elevator closest to the fire. The boys and I headed to the back yard to take dry clothes off the line.

The smell of smoke was incredibly strong in the air.....and the grass fire was 35 miles away. The kids and I packed a bag of clothes, and our favorite toys, and threw it in the car ready for evacuation. Looking back now I realize, yes, that was probably an overreaction on my part but I was anxious. I know nothing about prairie fires!

Tornadoes, sure! And aren't tornadoes and The Wizard of Oz the first thing you think of when you think of Kansas? I grew up with tornado drills and running to the basement and seeing the hit and miss destruction they leave in their wake.

But prairie fires? I couldn't see where this one was or where it was going. I was really concerned after hearing a whole town was evacuated. With the wind blowing up to 50 and 60 mph, how far and fast could a prairie fire go? Could it possibly get to DR who was only 12 miles away or all the way to our town? And with a fire, pretty much everything burns up right? It's not the hit and miss of a tornado.

This is a picture a friend uploaded on FaceBook of the fire or at least the smoke of the fire. You can barely see the truck lights on the lower left.

DR said even being 12 miles away he could see a wall of ashes and dust rise on the wind. The grass fire to the west of us was big, one Kansan firefighter said it was the worst he'd ever seen. There were fire companies from all over western Kansas and Oklahoma battling the blazes for over eight hours.

I didn't see the fire, I don't have pictures of it and I'm not sure if I'll get over that direction anytime soon to see the damage. Grass fires are something I am not used to prairie fires regardless of the stories I've heard from my Oklahoma family or Pioneer Woman. I was much more keyed up by this fire than I expected to be.

I think I'd rather face a tornado. At least they are quick. But thank goodness it's over and we are all safe. I'm not sure what kind of total damage was done but I know it could have been much worse.

You can read more details about the grass fire here.


  1. Glad you're all safe! I don't think packing up was overreacting-I think it was just smart! If you always prepare for the worst, you never get caught off-guard :)

  2. Oh my! Glad you are all safe.


  3. When you have kids, there is no precaution too great when their safety is in play. We have had field fires close, but none to that extreme. Gusts here Sunday were up to 53 mph!!! ACK!

    Thanks for the compliment on my header. One of these days I will learn how to do all this, but until then it is very wonderful to have friends who are in the "know."

  4. We are nearing the time of the year we call fire season here in West Texas. It doesn't start raining until the first of July and so it gets really hot and really dry in the spring. Then when it does start raining there is usually lightening along with it and fires break out everywhere. Recently, two or three surrounding ranches did prescribed burns which got out of control.
    But I bet prairie fires move fast.


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