No. 10: Moscow fire burns nine days before being contained


Editor's note:This is the first in a series of stories featuring The Telegram's top 10 news stories of 2013.

Editor's note:This is the first in a series of stories featuring The Telegram's top 10 news stories of 2013.


The nine-day blaze that destroyed an estimated 38,000 hay bales and for a time threatened the town of Moscow in late May and early June, comes in at No. 10 on The Telegram's list of top stories of 2013, as voted on by The Telegram staff.

The wildfire began May 28 and ended June 5, but it wasn't until day three of the lengthy blaze when firefighters had some control fire.

"You don't battle a fire that big. All you can do is contain," said Dan Wimmer, fire marshal of the Garden City Fire Department.

At the time, Kevin Doel, public information officer for the Kansas Fire Marshal's Office, said in an email to The Telegram that, "The total loss is over $2.5 million, which includes hay bales and hay sheds."

Firefighters from surrounding counties of Morton, Stevens Grant, Finney, Haskell, Seward, as well as Texas County, Okla., Hooker, Okla., and Tyrone, Okla., all had a hand in dousing the flames.

Stevens County Emergency Services Coordinator Rodney Kelling said at the time that the Stevens County and Moscow fire departments turned the situation over to Abengoa Bioenergy, the company that owned most of the lost hay bales.

When Abengoa personnel took over, there were some areas that were still smoldering on June 5.

One reason was because of the high winds that were spreading "hot spots," said Executive Vice President of Abengoa , Chris Standlee, at the time of the fire.

During the early stages of the fire, Stevens County Fire Chief Darroll Munson said 22 to 25 mph winds with the possibility of gusts as high 35 mph were expected in the morning of May 31.

At about 3 a.m. on the morning of May 30, north winds that blew smoke into the town of Moscow resulted in emergency managers and firefighters suggesting that residents evacuate. The evacuation was lifted at 9 a.m. that morning.

Most of the hay bales involved in the fire belonged to Abengoa, but Kelling said Cattle Empire lost one stack. Each stack consists of 2,500 to 3,000 bales.

"We probably lost about 16 big stacks, and each stack was about 1,100 tons — each one of those stacks is about one day's production for us, so we lost about 16 days worth of seed stock, is what it boils down to," Standlee said at the time, after the assessment of the fire.

Kansas Department of Emergency Management indicated that the fire was caused by lightning.

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