March 8, 2017 / 11:49 AM / 2 years ago

Wildfire threat remains after killing six, destroying numerous structures

March 8 (Reuters) - The threat of wildfires is expected to remain high on Wednesday in the U.S. Plains, where prairie fires have claimed six lives, prompted thousands of evacuations and destroyed numerous structures.

Fire weather advisories remained in effect in parts of Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas where firefighters continued to battle wildfires stoked by high winds and tinder-dry vegetation over the last several days.

Low humidity along with 15 to 25 mph (25 to 40 kph) winds and ongoing drought conditions will continue to create elevated fire dangers throughout the region, the National Weather Service said in its advisories that also included Missouri and Nebraska.

Cooler temperatures, diminishing winds and a chance of rain were in the forecast for parts of the region over the weekend, but the weather service warned that the threat of wildfires remained in effect.

“Winds will be considerably lighter through the middle to latter part of the week. This will result in less threatening fire weather conditions. However, a limited to elevated risk will continue, given the dry conditions,” the service said.

The fires killed four people, including three ranch hands racing to herd livestock to safety, in the Texas Panhandle. One motorist died in Kansas on Monday from smoke inhalation, authorities said.

A woman in Oklahoma suffered a heart attack while trying to move cattle from harm’s way and died, NBC News reported. Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin declared an emergency in 22 counties hit by wildfires.

The Perryton fire blackened more than 300,000 acres (121,000 hectares) and destroyed two homes in the Texas Panhandle and was 50 percent contained, authorities said.

Wildfires in northwestern Oklahoma prompted evacuations of multiple towns, according to state officials, who said more than 10,000 acres (4,000 hectares) have burned.

At least 10,000 residents in central Kansas were asked to evacuate their homes due to a wildfire in Reno County, where about 230 responders were on the scene, the county’s emergency management agency said.

More than 650,000 acres (263,000 hectares) also have burned in Kansas, according to the state’s emergency management agency.

Firefighters battling a 30,000-acre (12,000-hectare) grassland fire in northeastern Colorado extended containment lines to 80 percent of the blaze’s perimeter on Tuesday. Five homes were lost in the flames, a spokeswoman for Phillips County official said. (Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Toby Chopra)

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