Illegal outdoor burn scorches 60 acres near Manhattan

At 1:45 PM Wednesday, March 29, Riley County Fire District #1 was dispatched to an area near High Plains Trail, just southwest of Tuttle Creek Lake dam, for reports of a fire outside. Upon arrival, crews found an illegally started outdoor burn that was out of control. 

An estimated 60 acres burned and an Evergy electrical transformer junction box was damaged in the fire. No one is without power as a result of the damage to the junction box. Two homes were threatened but no evacuations were issued and no structures were lost. No injuries have been reported. 

A total of 18 Riley County Fire District #1 (RCFD#1) volunteers and personnel responded to the fire on 10 apparatus, along with 4 Manhattan Fire Department (MFD) personnel and 1 MFD apparatus.

“This was a difficult fire to fight and I called for mutual aid from the Manhattan Fire Department because I knew we would need additional help to get it under control,” said Deputy Chief Doug Russell. “The terrain was steep and the strong wind swirled in the valleys, creating small fire tornadoes. I’m grateful we had enough personnel available to attack this fire quickly and protect the neighboring homes.” 

Outdoor burning was not allowed in Riley County this afternoon due to high winds and dangerous fire conditions. Riley County Fire District #1 sent multiple public notifications about the burn ban and dangerous conditions.

Riley County regulations require all burn permit holders to notify local authorities before outdoor burning begins, and to only burn when weather conditions allow. Permit holders are also required to have adequate equipment and manpower to conduct the burn safely. The property owner failed to follow the terms of the burn permit process. Riley County Police Department issued a citation to the property owner for the violation.

“The first step in the process to conduct an outdoor burn is to contact Riley County Emergency Management or visit our website to apply for a free burn permit. Staff will share advice and information for conducting the burn safely,” said Russell.

Dangerous fire conditions are expected to continue for the next few days. The National Weather Service issued a Wind Advisory which will be in effect starting at noon tomorrow, March 30th through 4:00 AM March 31st. South winds sustained at 25 – 35 mph with gusts up to 55 mph are expected. Outdoor burning will not be allowed in Riley County during dangerous fire conditions. 

For more information about burn permits or to apply to serve as a volunteer with Riley County Fire District #1, visit or call 785-537-6333 during business hours. 

The Kansas Forest Service also provides prescribed burning classes to property owners. More information is available at  

Sign up for emergency notifications, including burn condition notices, at

Derek Nester
Derek Nester
Derek Nester was born and raised in Blue Rapids and graduated from Valley Heights High School in 2000. He attended Cowley College in Arkansas City and Johnson County Community College in Overland Park studying Journalism & Media Communications. In 2002 Derek joined Taylor Communications, Inc. in Salina, Kansas working in digital media for 550 AM KFRM and 100.9 FM KCLY. Following that stop, he joined Dierking Communications, Inc. stations KNDY AM & FM as a board operator and fill-in sports play-by-play announcer. Starting in 2005 Derek joined the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network as a Studio Coordinator at 101 The Fox in Kansas City, a role he would serve for 15 years culminating in the Super Bowl LIV Championship game broadcast. In 2020 he moved to Audacy, formerly known as Entercom Communications, Inc. and 106.5 The Wolf and 610 Sports Radio, the new flagship stations of the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network, the largest radio network in the NFL. Through all of this, Derek continues to serve as the Digital Media Director for Sunflower State Radio, the digital and social media operations of Dierking Communications, Inc. and the 6 radio stations it owns and operates across Kansas.


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