A burn ban has been issued for Ellis County effective today. The Ellis County Commission unanimously approved an order halting controlled burns at Monday’s meeting.

Wildfires scorched approximately 700,000 acres of Kansas land last week, spreading rapidly due to extremely dry conditions and high winds. Multiple fires were reported in Ellis County and throughout northwest Kansas.

Several area counties already have issued burn bans, and others are in the process of doing so, said Darin Myers, Ellis County fire chief and emergency management coordinator.

A burn ban also was issued in the county last year, but only was in effect for a short time.

The county received significant amounts of precipitation shortly after the ban was passed.

“Last year, we did implement the burn ban, then we had a very decent year of rain and moisture that allowed us to progress through the year and allow fireworks over the Fourth of July,” he said. “Hopefully, that will be the same case this year.”

The county fire department — which consists of 82 volunteer firefighters — also was recognized last week for its hard work containing several wildfires. Commission Chairperson Barbara Wasinger read an emotional proclamation declaring today “Rural Firefighter Day.”

“The commissioners of Ellis County and the people of Ellis County are deeply grateful for their efforts throughout the year, as well as during the recent grass fires,” Wasinger said. “These volunteers play an essential role in safeguarding the lives and properties of the residents of Ellis County.”

Wasinger also thanked the county’s public works and EMS departments for providing support, and said the county appreciates area employers accommodating volunteer firefighters. Many area residents also rushed to help, with some fighting the fire alongside county crews and others providing food, drinks and supplies, she said.

Several landowners also drove across the county to bring fire crews more water, Myers said.

“We had multiple families from Ellis and Russell counties bring us food, sandwiches, chips, cookies. It all adds up, and it’s all very important,” he said. “We appreciate the support for us as well.”

The commissioners also gave Myers the go-ahead to accept a $100 cash donation given to the fire department after a small grass fire near Pfeifer. The department usually doesn’t receive financial donations, but the property owners were insistent, he said.

The funds will be used to purchase additional face shields to help protect firefighters from inhaling dirt and smoke.