WICHITA, Kan. — Fires fanned by Thursday's high winds stretched Wichita-area fire crews thin.
It took firefighters longer than normal to get to a northwest Wichita apartment fire< because crews were already battling other fires, a battalion chief said. The fire at the Pelican Point Apartments near 21st and Meridian about 7 p.m. damaged four apartments. It was just one of many fires in the Wichita area Thursday.
Grass fires across the Wichita metro area kept firefighters busy Thursday. Many of them threatened homes.
"Across the street from me, his lawn got burned," said Lester Dean, who lives near 159th Street East and Kellogg. "That's when it got serious for me."
Dean had to evacuate his neighborhood. Smoke from the fire forced the closure of Kellogg. While the flames came dangerously close to homes in the area, no houses in that area were damaged.
"There was smoke and flames just shooting up everywhere," Dean said. "Just smoke and debris. Next thing I know, the fire officer said, 'You need to evacuate this street.' I just got everything I could and I went."
Not far away, smoke from a grass fire closed K-96 at 13th Street until crews brought it under control. All of the fires had crews so busy, they were delayed getting to the Pelican Point fire.
"It was several minutes before we could get units here to put the fire out and that just had to do with the number of grass fires we had today," said Wichita Fire Department Battalion Chief Rich Harris. "The amount of wind didn't help matters."
Some basic medical calls were also halted because of the fires. Off-duty firefighters were also called in to help.
Earlier in the day, a fire in north Wichita burned several yards, but did not damage any houses. It caught Terry Osgood off-guard.
"I was sitting in the living room watching the History Channel on who killed Jesse James," Osgood said. "Fire truck pulls up, I wanted to see what was going on, I step out and it's my yard on fire."
Kevin Rider believes ashes from his cigarette started that fire. He suffered minor burns to his face trying to put it out.
"It just grew," Rider said. "In like five minutes, I mean, we had this back yard, next back yard and the one after that. No buildings, though."