- Associated Press - Saturday, March 26, 2016

MEDICINE LODGE, Kan. (AP) - The Latest on efforts to contain prairie wildfires that have scorched Oklahoma and Kansas (all times local):

3:30 p.m.

An 87-year-old man who lost his 19th-century home to a prairie fire that has scorched a large swath of southern Kansas is recounting how he narrowly escaped the flames with his wife.

Korean War veteran Don Gerstner says the blaze that spread into Kansas from Oklahoma advanced quickly Wednesday on the Barber County home near Medicine Lodge he has shared for 54 years with his wife, Carol.

Gerstner says that when he looked out the kitchen window, he saw what he described as a wall of fire coming. He yelled for his wife to get her pocketbook, and the couple fled with their dogs, at times driving through flames to escape.

Gerstner says the couple watched from afar as the fire consumed their home, much of it built with bricks from the county’s old courthouse.


2:30 p.m.

Oklahoma Forestry Services says several structures, numerous cattle and more than 1,000 bales of hay have burned in a wildfire that has scorched about 620 square miles in Oklahoma and Kansas.

Forestry services spokeswoman Michelle Finch-Walker said Saturday the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management is still assessing the damage. She said officials estimate that 36 percent of the fire is now contained.

Livestock producers should contact their county Farm Service Agency, which has programs to assist producers who have lost cattle.

There is also a hay donation repository that’s been established west of Alva to accept donations of hay to producers.


11:30 a.m.

Firefighters trying to snuff out the biggest wildfire in Kansas history are getting help from military helicopters - and a potential assist from rain or snow.

Four Black Hawk helicopters from the Kansas National Guard have been dispatched in the efforts to contain the persistent prairie blazes in south-central Kansas.

At least two helicopters have a 660-gallon bucket that will be used to dump water from local sources onto the flames.

The fire, which began Tuesday and spread north from Oklahoma into Kansas, is blamed for charring at least 620 square miles and destroying at least two homes. No serious injuries have been reported.

The National Weather Service says the area where the fire is located may get one-tenth to a quarter inch of precipitation Saturday night or Sunday morning.

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