There have been wildfires in Kansas this week that have killed two men, authorities said on Friday. The fires have burned hundreds of thousands of acres.

84-year-old Richard Shimanek, a rancher and a farmer, died on Thursday night at a Denver hospital. When he was outside his house on Wednesday, he fell and wasn’t able to get up. Fire Chief Hughes said that he couldn’t get back up while he was trying to fight the fire.

They said Friday that the body of Derrick Kelley, 36, was found near his burned-out car in a rural part of Ellis County, Texas. They were identified by a coroner, the sheriff’s office said.

Derrick Kelley was last seen on Wednesday in Hays, just before his fiance called to say that he was missing. They said he was thought to be driving toward Natoma on county roads.

Derrick Kelley
fox4kc.com

A wildfire broke out in western and central Kansas on Wednesday, and both men were killed. The fires were caused by winds up to 90 mph dry conditions. 625 square miles of land burned in 11 counties of western Kansas, the Kansas Forest Service said on Monday.

It was a small town in Russell County called Paradise. One family was grateful that they were safe, but they were also sad about losing their home and cattle.

Brett Thompson, the mayor of Paradise, was hurt when he tried to save his cattle, said Caity Thompson, his daughter. While he was away, his house caught fire. It was the only one of about 50 in the town to be devastated by the fire.

Brett’s wife, Caity Thompson, escaped the home when she got to know about the fire. Her family’s grain elevator business happened to be safe.

“It’s a mixture of emotions,” she said. “We’re devastated that the house is gone, along with half our cattle herd and a lot of our livelihood. But we still have the grain elevator, my grandma and sister still have their houses, and the main thing is my dad is alive.”

The evacuation of people in Paradise and other small towns was ordered Wednesday as the fire advanced across the area, said Dustin Finkenbinder, the fire chief in neighboring Waldo. According to him, the fire engulfed an area around 45 miles (72 kilometers) in length.

“We fought fire and winds 50 miles an hour before, but nothing like maybe 100 miles an hour. So we just kind of did what we could,” he said. “As far as damage, I mean I guess catastrophic would be the right word.”

Several minor fires around the state were brought under control by Friday, and firefighters were keeping an eye on them to make sure they didn’t rekindle, according to Shawna Hartman, a Kansas Forest Service spokeswoman.

According to her, numerous big flames were still engulfing the region, some of which were in places that were inaccessible to ground workers. Officials were utilizing helicopters to drop water on the fires in an effort to bring the flames and heat under control and enable ground teams to get to the hotspots faster.

Several days will be needed to assess how many acres have been burnt and to totally limit the blazes and make the affected regions safe, according to her.