GORHAM -- A massive grass fire has been contained after burning for several hours Friday near the Ellis/Russell county line just north of Gorham.
At its height, the fire stretched nearly 5 miles long from Land Road in Russell County to Old U.S. Highway 40. It likely was an electric fire started near an oil pumping well, said Keith Haberer, Russell County emergency manager.
“It’s contained,” he said Friday evening. “And we’re just mainly putting out hot spots right now. There’s trees and bales and you name it that’s still burning out there, but it’s not going anywhere.”
Crews remained on the scene as of Saturday morning, monitoring hot spots.
The fire started early Friday afternoon in Ellis County and moved southeast. A strong wind helped the fire spread and made it difficult to contain, said Darin Myers, Ellis County emergency manager and fire chief.
“I don’t know what the top wind speeds were,” he said. “The wind was definitely a big factor.”
No firefighters were badly hurt, though some were treated for minor issues such as smoke inhalation, Haberer said. No homes were damaged, though it’s not yet clear if any other structures such as outbuildings might have been involved.
The entire town of Gorham was blanketed in thick smoke, and Old U.S. Highway 40 temporarily was closed to through traffic. Smoke was visible from as far as Hays and Great Bend.
Units from Victoria and Catharine responded from Ellis County, with all of the Russell County rural fire companies responding: Paradise/Waldo/Natoma, Luray, Lucas, Dorrance, Bunker Hill, Russell Grant Township, Milberger and Gorham. Additional help came from Ellsworth County, Haberer said.
Many volunteer firefighters still were out of town for the Thanksgiving holiday, making staffing a challenge.
“Staffing was an issue,” he said. “I think at every station, we were a little short-handed with people being gone for the holidays.”
Area farmers and residents, however, were quick to rush in to assist. Many farmers arrived at the scene with discs and water tanks to help hold the line of fire, Myers said.
“We had a lot of help from everyone you could think of,” Myers said. “It’s amazing in these small communities how everyone can come together and help each other out.”