The Anderson Creek Fire, which started in Oklahoma last week and spread to Kansas where it is now the largest wildfire in Kansas history, continues to burn.
The good news? Fewer acres appear to have caught fire than initially thought. Aerial scouting on Monday revealed that 367,620 acres of pasture and farmland has burnt since March 22, according to Oklahoma Forestry Services (OFS). Those numbers are down from the March 24 projection of 397,420 acres.
Containment of the wildfire has increased, thanks to the efforts of fire crews from across the region. The National Guard even used Blackhawk helicopters this weekend to reach more remote areas of the blaze and then dumping water on the flames. Currently, 90% of the Anderson Creek Fire has been contained.
“Crews are continuing efforts towards containment so the line will hold if fire weather returns to critical conditions,” says George Geissler, director of OFS.
Firefighters got some relief in the form of snow and rain on Easter Sunday when approximately an inch of moisture fell in the area. It helped put out some fires and dampened dry grass that could have posed a threat. However, Geissler says the efforts aren’t over; firefighters are preparing for “extreme fire weather to return on Tuesday.”
The area of Kansas and Oklahoma where the fire is occurring is a region of rough, hilly terrain known as the Gypsum Hills, or Red Hills. It is primarily grazing land. Barber County, Kan., is home to 47,000 cattle and Comanche County, Kan., has 35,500 cattle, according to USDA data from January 1, 2015. Across the border, Oklahoma's Woods County has approximately 75,000 cattle.
Initially, there were no reports of cattle losses attributed to the Anderson Creek Fire. But that has changed. OSF officials now say the wildfire has killed estimated 600 head of cattle in Oklahoma.
Kansas Department of Agriculture (KDA) and Kansas Livestock Association (KLA) did not have estimates on losses at this time. There could be cattle running free in the area due to fences that have been cut by firefighters or let loose due to fence posts that burned in the fire, according to Heather Lansdowne, KDA communications director.
An estimated 100 miles of fence was destroyed in the Oklahoma portion of the fire, according to OFS.
Fire crews are working on foot today to monitor hot-spots and maintain containment lines. The cause of the Anderson Creek Fire is still under investigation.
Both the KLA and Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association have established relief funds to assists livestock producers affected by the fire.