MEDICINE LODGE, Kan. – Fire crews continue to monitor a massive wildfire that's scorched an area about the size of Oklahoma City in a sparsely populated part of southern Kansas and northern Oklahoma. Here's a look at where the fight against the fire stands, what's been done to control it and the damage done.
WHERE IT'S BURNING
About 620 square miles of land total has been touched by the fire, which started last week in Oklahoma before spreading into rural southern Kansas. The Kansas Forest Service says about 420 square miles of that fire was in Barber County, Kansas — the largest such fire in the state's history.
Overall, about 90 percent of the fire was contained, meaning it was being held within designated boundaries, by Sunday. In Barber County, it was slightly less contained, at 81 percent, the forest service said. Crews were to patrol the fire areas on Monday.
Warmer, drier conditions are expected in the fire area Monday and Tuesday, which the forest service says will present significant to extreme fire weather risk. Forecasts also call for gusty winds in the region.
TRAIL OF DESTRUCTION
The Kansas Adjutant General's Office said the fire destroyed at least two homes, and that three bridges and one railroad trestle were either damaged or destroyed.
The fire zone is home to thousands of cattle, with the latest estimate by the National Agricultural Statistics Service showing more than 47,000 head of cattle in Barber County in early 2015 and another 35,500 in neighboring Comanche County, which was also affected by the fire.
Authorities haven't given official estimates on the number of livestock that perished or that had to be euthanized due to the fire, and Kansas Department of Agriculture says that might take several days. County emergency management boards are working to determine agricultural-related losses, which will include feed, livestock and barns.
A positive note: No serious injuries to residents have been reported.
WHAT CAUSED IT?
Oklahoma authorities said Monday they were continuing to investigate the cause of the fire.
HELPING HANDS — AND CLOUDS
Rain and snow helped fire crews in Barber County over the weekend, as did four UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters from the Kansas National Guard. The helicopters, which dumped thousands of gallons of water on the fire Saturday, were able to identify any hard-to-reach areas that had reignited.
COST OF THE FIRE
There is no cost estimate yet for the damage in Kansas, according to the Kansas Adjutant General's office.
In Barber County, attorney Gaten Wood told The Wichita Eagle that authorities had spent more than $1 million on resources from outside fire departments and the use of the helicopters.