By Shelby Horton

Smoke came over Hutchinson like a dark cloud, nearly blocking the sun, and residents looked at sky curiously as the smoke spread over most of southern Kansas.

On March 22, a wildfire began in Woods County, Oklahoma, and spread into Kansas, burning over 400,000 acres.

Hutchinson Community College Fire Science students received the call and about 15 of them soon set out to help fight the fire.

“For Spring Break, the students were scheduled to help with a mitigation project, and work with controlled fires,” said Jamie Copple, Fire Science physical training instructor. “The fire was unexpected, but our students handled it well.”

Tyler Lindzy, Salina, was one of the fire science students who went to help battle what became known as the Anderson Creek Fire.

After spending the first two days of his Spring Break helping with a Reno County mitigation project, doing controlled burns, he was sent south, near Medicine Lodge, to help with the spreading wildfire.

Working 12-hour days, the squads of fire science students were housed at night in a small church in Medicine Lodge, where they were provided with cots and meals.

Fire Science students were mainly in charge of structure protection, clean up, and ensuring that burned areas had no embers or hot spots that could possibly re-start fires.

Lindzy, who has experienced fighting fires in California and Colorado, found the experience in Kansas to be different since the land here is flat, which allowed the wind to pick up the fire at times.

Lindzy believes his prior experience helped him to handle the situation calmly and effectively.

“The volunteer firefighters were tense and freaking out over the entire situation,” Lindzy said. “HCC students were very calm about the situation.”

The Anderson Creek Fire is now 100 percent contained, but is now considered a historic event.

“I was involved with the largest wildfire in Kansas history,” Lindzy said. “I will remember it for the rest of my life. This year was the best year for Fire Science students because of the great experience we gained from this.”

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