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The Kansan - Newton, KS
  • County crews battle fire

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  • A severe thunderstorm that caused damage throughout Harvey County wasn't the only event that kept emergency responders busy on Thursday.
    Firefighters and EMS personnel from about 10 different departments responded to a major fire in a wheat field at about 2:30 p.m., bringing the fire under control by about 4:30 p.m.
    "It was a pretty significant event," said Newton Fire/EMS Chief Mark Willis, adding it's one of the largest fires his department has responded to this year. "... We had some outstanding mutual aid. We were able to coordinate our efforts."
    The fire happened near Whitewater, at the Harvey and Butler county line. Harvey County Emergency Management coordinator Lon Buller reported the event involved 120 to 140 acres. The fire is believed to have been started by a combine cutting wheat, but the percentage of cut versus uncut wheat damaged by the blaze was not available.
    Twenty-eight units from Andover, Benton, Augusta, Walton, Newton, Sedgwick, Sedgwick County Fire District No. 1, Bentley and Potwin were on the scene. The Harvey County Sheriff's department shut down traffic on K-196 due to hazardous conditions. Willis said Newton crews assisted with coordinating resources and protecting a residence and a church that were in the path of the fire.
    Weather conditions created a difficult operating environment for emergency responders. Temperatures at the scene were 104 degrees, combined with wind and smoke.
    One firefighter reported an injury but was treated and released. Responders were kept hydrated and monitored to make sure they didn't become sick in the heat.
    And the night wasn't over for Newton crews — they returned to town just as the severe thunderstorm hit, and they began receiving reports of trees down and lightning strikes.
    "They had a very long day and a very long night," Willis said.
     
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