Easter snow helps U.S. firefighters slowly contain prairie wildfire

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 27, 2016 3:16 PM

(Reuters) - A wildfire that has scorched hundreds of thousands acres of prairie and ranch land in Kansas and Oklahoma since last week was slowly being contained, authorities said on Sunday, with a rare Easter snowfall providing some help to fire-fighting teams.

Even though Kansas and Oklahoma received about an inch of snow on Saturday night, officials remained cautious about when teams could bring the fire under control.

"Firefighters are trying to use some of that precipitation to get a handle on things," said Melanie Karns, spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Forestry Services. "If we just get a little bit of rain or snow, it helps, but it takes more than just a little bit to help put out some of the heavier fuels."

By Sunday afternoon, the so-called Anderson Creek Fire, which began on Tuesday in Oklahoma and spread northward, was 45 percent contained across the two states, Karns said. The fire was 36 percent contained at midday on Saturday.

The Kansas Forestry Service on Friday said the wildfire was the largest in the state's history and one of the largest ever in the United States. It has already charred nearly 400,000 acres in both states.

Karns said the agency would update the number of burned acres by late Sunday afternoon.

Barber County, Kansas, about 100 miles southwest of Wichita near the Oklahoma border, remains the most difficult area to contain the blaze. The fire is 31 percent contained in the county, Karns said.

Fire-fighting teams have used Kansas Air National Guard Black Hawk helicopters to dump buckets of water in canyons and other dry areas. Helicopters continued to drop water in dry and burning areas on Sunday afternoon, said Shawna Hartman, spokeswoman for Kansas Forest Service.

About 50,000 gallons of water were dumped throughout Saturday, Hartman said.

(Reporting by Justin Madden in Chicago; Editing by Dan Grebler)