Salute Our Heroes: Fire Agencies step up to stop Crawford fire in Dover

Salute Our Heroes: Fire stations step up to stop Crawford fires in Dover
Published: Mar. 22, 2021 at 7:15 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - The large grass fires in Dover left hundreds of acres burnt, few vacant buildings destroyed, but no injuries or livestock deaths reported. Fire stations, Shawnee Co. District 4, stepped up to make sure it didn’t go any further.

More than 10 agencies went to stop the flames, saving at least 11 homes and 4-5 agricultural buildings and livestock according to Fire Chief Dirk Christian.

“You know you can almost draw it on a map from where the fire started to where that farmstead burned to where we stopped the fire all the way at 57th and Davis,” he said. “It’s almost a straight line that follows that SW winds that day.”

The dry weather conditions and high winds rekindle flames, sparking large grass fires. That’s what happened at the Crawford fires in Dover.

Shawnee Co. District 4 Fire Chief Christian is the leader for one of the more than 10 agencies on the scene to stop it as soon as possible.

“As we were coming out of here, we were already calling for additional resources and then my first units on scene, that was the Dover station, already calling for additional resources,” he said.

On Sunday, they believed they contained it and thought it would have to be mopped up the next day. Christian said they didn’t realize how much of fuel load there was in the low ground on the east side of the Mission Creek Camp. All night the fire burned and that location is too low for their trucks to get to, so they got some help.

“We actually brought in a Blackhawk helicopter with bambi buckets dropping into those hard to get in areas starting at about noon or 12:30 on Monday and they dropped water for us for about three hours,” he said.

It was contained again, so they thought, but then on Tuesday, the winds continued. Christian sent out his unit again and this time, it was either to fight the fire with water or fight the fire with fire before it reached nearby homes.

“We did not want that fire jumping 57th Street. If it would have jumped 57 Street and continued burning to the north, I was actually sure where we would be able to stop it,” he said.

“I sort of joked with everybody and said, ‘this is either going to be a real defining moment for me as a fire chief or it’s going to be the last day that you guys ever know me as a fire chief because if this goes wrong, it goes wrong.’”

They chose to fight with fire and were done with the burn at about 11 p.m. Tuesday. On Wednesday they contracted with a local company to dump an extra 16,000 gallons of water to extinguish the flames.

Waiting for rain in the forecast all week to help, it finally started on Friday.

Christian said the fire was officially 100% contained and under control Saturday morning.

He said it was a team effort and gives all of the troops all of the praise for staying active and persistent to help save more acres.

“All the credit goes to the hundred-plus firefighters that put in hours and hours on this fire that you know, drop everything to come and help someone out and help their neighbors and help their community,” he said.

Christian said this was the largest fire he’s had to handle and there were more than 100 fire fighters on the scene on two of the three days.

He said he and some of his fire fighters, who are all volunteers, had to use vacation days at their civilian jobs to continue to fight the flames all week.

“Relationships matter and you start to realize, you meet folks all the time in this business and you exchange business cards and you go to conferences and meetings and fire schools and training together because the worst thing you can do is exchange a business card when it’s an emergency,” he said.

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