Six hundred acres of scorched earth, Ellsworth County, Kan. | One good lightning pass in these parts can ignite four or five grass fires on any given day, keeping the volunteer fire crews of central Kansas fighting long and less-than-lucrative hours.
A blaze here earlier this month drew more than 120 firefighters from several small communities. Flames reached as high as 20 on mostly publicly-owned grassland around Kanopolis Lake reservoir.
After Day 1, crews thought the fire was out and drove the 20 or 30 miles back to their homes. Many had to return the next day when the wind shifted, forging a new fiery front.
The fire never reached a $1 million home nearby. But it did jump across gravel roads, scorched 600 acres of meandering horse trails and kept ambulances at bay to tend to exhausted and overheated crews.
A firefighter on this job might get $10 for making the run, if any payment at all, said Kanopolis State Park manager Rick Martin.
“When all is said and done, it’s usually just a handshake,” he said, “and they go back home – until needed again.”
|Rick Montgomery, email@example.com